Urban voices – Asif:
“I feel I am part of the city”

The following story was originally compiled for the Mixed Migration Review 2020 and has been reproduced here for wider access through this website’s readership.[1]

I’ve been living here in Turin [Torino] ever since I left Pakistan five years ago. I left because I wanted to study more and also there are no job opportunities in Pakistan and few universities. In Pakistan I completed a three-year diploma in medical engineering. There is a political war [in Pakistan]… There should be job opportunities and a better justice system. It is very corrupt, the police and everyone. I don’t think it will change.

I came alone to Italy, by plane. I don’t think my family will join me. My documents are not supporting the kind of facility that I can manage with my family here, so I have to struggle a little bit more. If I find another job that is well-paid then I will see if I’m able to bring my family here.

I came here on a study visa, there were no fees for that. I applied directly through the university in Turin and they offered me a place. I’m a student here now on and off, but after three years I haven’t finished my degree because I have to work as well and I have health problems, so that’s why I applied for refugee status. Now I have documents, and I applied for a resident’s permit this month. I applied a little late because the offices were closed because of coronavirus. They did not give me any information about when I will get the permit. They are taking too long to make it, it’s very slow.

I applied for a humanitarian visa here. At the police station, you have to say that you are a refugee and you want to seek asylum, and after some time you have to explain how you came here and what was the problem of living in your country. You must explain your situation and they will decide. I have explained my health situation and they considered it.

I am living in a camp, so there are other refugees and migrants and Pakistanis. In the city, I was in like a student hostel. It was a good place, I think, better than elsewhere.

In Turin, there are lots of people [from different places] living here, many people doing business, and refugees, so I don’t feel that they think they are rejected by the city. They are well accepted. I feel I am part of the city. I came here as a student and I’ve never felt I came to a place with racism. The people of Turin are accepting. The students at the university helped us with things like getting houses. In the libraries people like me can get every facility Italians are getting and other students will help you if you have any problems with the education or if you didn’t understand the questions.

In the public places I have been I don’t feel like an outsider. You can also go to clubs; there are some places where the students get free entry, so I have gone to some clubs. And there are some organisations that help foreigners, finding apartments and so on. If I ask an Italian how to get somewhere, they will show me the way or even go with me so I find it. In Pakistan, in my city, people are good but sometimes they get angry.

The other good things here are the justice system and job opportunities. And the education. Like when I applied as a refugee, they registered me in a school for Italian language. I think here the system is really good. As a refugee I think the health system is also very good. If you are a refugee, you don’t have to pay anything. I’m in a medical situation where I have to go for treatment every week and all the doctors are very kind. And considering the situation of the health system, and for the Italians who have a job, they have to pay, but refugees don’t have to pay.

There are lot of good memories here. Every New Year I watch the fireworks [in the city’s main square] and the people are happy. I think the whole city goes there to celebrate the new year. That is a wonderful experience for me.

Personally I don’t have any problems with security or my safety. My experience has been really good. But I have a little bit of a problem with the visa and other stuff: you apply for a resident’s permit and you have to wait, wait, wait.

I was working, but now I’m not able to work because of my health. I was working as a mechanical designer. I had six months of training and then I got a contract, but then I was not feeling so good because of my health. The doctors said that if you are not well then how can you work here? Economically, now I’m not so good. I get some pocket money, like €90 per month, a travel card and food. That’s how I’m surviving here. It’s changed a lot because if I’m not able to work, they also take care of me. They help me when I have to go to hospital.

If my health improves maybe I will find another job here in Turin, or in a factory outside the city, and get an apartment and try to survive. Then I will be very, very happy.

One day maybe I would like to move back to Pakistan because my family is there. But for now, I would like to stay in Turin. If I find another job or work in another city, I would have to go there, but right now I have no plan to leave Turin. Right now, I am a little bit sick so I’m going to the hospital and that’s also what is keeping me here.

[1] ‘Urban Voices’ presents seven stories from migrants and refugees living in cities drawn from detailed individual interviews conducted by MMC. They often illustrate the non-linear nature of so many migrant and refugee journeys – characterised by the twists and turns in many migrants’ erratic lives. They serve to offer evidence towards a new concept recently introduced in migration studies of circumstantial migration to describe how “migration trajectories and experiences unfold in unpredictable ways under the influence of micro-level context and coincidence.” [Carling, J. and Haugen (2020) Circumstantial migration: how Gambian journeys to China enrich migration theory. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.] MMC did not record the names of respondents and all names in this ‘urban voices’ series are aliases.