‘I feel inspired here’: refugees find business success in Naple


-From designing homewares to recording songs, many that fled to Europe are constructing unbiased lives in opposition to the odds

Pieces of material of diverse colorful sun sunglasses fill the Naples studio wherein Paboy Bojang and his group of 4 are operating across the clock to sew collectively 250 cushions for his or her subsequent customer, The Conran Shop.

They aren’t long from dispatching their first orders to Selfridges and Paul Smith, and with requests for the extraordinary cotton cushions with ruffled borders flooding in from across the globe, they’ll be busy for months to come.

Bojang, 29, is the various humans to have landed on Italy’s beaches over the last decade. He fled the dictatorship withinside the Gambia, witnessed the horror in Libya, and survived a risky adventure throughout the Mediterranean. He has observed solace in southern Italy, in a metropolis whose heat include has enabled him and different refugees to thrive despite an EU asylum device this is stacked in opposition to them.

“The first 12 months became tough, and withinside the 2d 12 months, once I was given to realize extra humans and made pals who cared for me, I commenced to fall in love with Naples,” Bojang stated. “I sense stimulated right here.”

His fulfillment has been not anything quick or remarkable. Depressed and seeking out something to do for the duration of Italy’s strict coronavirus lockdown in the spring of 2020, he commenced stitching. A few months later he published a picture of his first homemade cushion on Instagram. It became a direct hit and, as messages stuffed his inbox, his homeware enterprise, In Casa through Peabody, became born.

Today he employs 3 refugees to paint alongside him making the cushions, which retail at €160, in addition to a younger Italian as an emblem manager.

It wasn’t in any respect what I expected,” he stated. “My dream now’s to develop the agency and rent extra immigrants. I need to expose humans that we’ve got talent, we’ve got the knowledge, we make stunning matters, we shouldn’t simply be operating on farms and badly paid.”

Bojang became raised through his grandmother in his domestic metropolis of Serrekunda, wherein he found out to stitch at the age of thirteen after being despatched to paintings at a tailor’s keep run by an uncle. Still in his teenage, when his grandmother died, he left for Europe, crossing numerous international locations through the land, tons of its desert, earlier than arriving in Tripoli wherein he slept tough for 18 months.

“I slept on the street, in garages, below cars … Libya became lousy, I went through numerous trauma there,” he stated.

Bojang paid human traffickers 3 instances for an area on a ship to get to Europe. On the very last attempt, he witnessed passengers being shot at by Libyan police as they attempted to go away.

“Sometimes it’s very tough to explain what I skilled in Libya, it became like a film,” Bojang stated. “I even have by no means visible such lousy matters in my existence. They didn’t care who we had been, it became as though we had been animals.”

Bojang became on a crammed, risky boat for nearly days earlier than arriving at the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in 2015. From there he made his manner to Naples, wherein for the primary 12 months he stayed in a squalid, overcrowded refugee center on the outskirts of the metropolis.

He, first of all, labored in a tile manufacturing unit however misplaced his process after the far-proper chief Matteo Salvini, as indoors minister, enacted a regulation abolishing the humanitarian safety allow. The -12 months allow, which became given to the ones ineligible for refugee repute however who for diverse motives couldn’t be despatched domestically, enabled humans to discover paintings and tour to some other EU kingdom for as much as ninety days. Salvini’s flow coincided with the closure of many refugee centers throughout Italy, leaving lots homeless and jobless.

Bojang’s existence commenced extruding when he met Sophia Seymour, a British journalist and documentary maker, outdoor Teranga, an Afrobeat nightclub in Naples run through refugees. Seymour supplied him with a room in her domestic, lent him her stitching system, and endorsed him to create.

She guided him by putting in place a business, even though Bojang remains looking ahead to the renewal of his paintings allow and one which he hopes will permit him to tour for the release of his products.

“Every step of the immigration device makes getting on tough,” stated Seymour, who co-directed Teranga, a documentary exploring the hopes and desires of asylum seekers in Naples. “Starting with the lengthy watch for files with the intention to paintings, which makes numerous humans depressed withinside the high in their existence. Then, in case you need to install it alone, you want a lot of humans to suggest you. This all fees money … you want to rely upon such a lot of humans to assist you, and meaning counting on good fortune and kindness.”

Teranga became the launchpad for Mozeh Keita, 22, from the Gambia, and his band Dozer Gang, whose song has had lots of listeners on Spotify and YouTube and has been performed on UK radio. The fondness amongst Neapolitans for Keita, referred to as Bobby through pals is palpable as you stroll via the metropolis with him. Many prevent mentioning howdy or supplying him with a high-five. He works as a preparer dinner to get through even as the band prepares its subsequent EP.

“Music has usually been my dream,” he stated. “My lyrics describe how I’m dwelling, the matters I see, and the way the device and global are going. Every day is a one-of-a-kind story: a few days you awaken feeling chilled, on others you sense anxiety.”

Keita stated he became thankful to be in Naples, a metropolis wherein he feels secure even as tons of the relaxation of Europe perceives migrants as a threat. He is conscious, however, that a lot have died looking to attain Europe or stay caught withinside the asylum device, not able to paint legally or exploited through employers. “We had been fortunate to make it via, however now no longer all and sundry who comes does.”

Mame Thiafour Ndiaye, beginning from Senegal, has been dwelling in Naples for extra than 12 years. A song producer, he facilitates to the sale of corporations consisting of Dozer Gang and One Voice. “It’s now no longer smooth to stay off the song, all of us do different jobs,” he stated. “But in Naples maximum humans are welcoming, and so even though possibilities for immigrants are scarce, we’ve got this tranquility.”

Yankuba Fatty, 23, arrived in Italy by boat in 2017 and controlled to get pinnacle marks on his tests to take a look at medication at the University of Naples, however, became not able to enroll in the path as his required allows had now no longer arrived in time. He later installed an internet language faculty and now teaches English at a personal faculty in northern Italy even as analyzing biotechnology. He stated he became fortunate to discover “the proper chemistry” in Naples, along with an Italian attorney who helped him install his business.

“But manifestly others might say the whole opposite,” he stated. “Some are unpaid, operating lengthy hours for employers who deal with them badly.”

Fatty is baffled by the European international locations that flip their backs on refugees despite having the sources to assist them. “People go away from their international locations now no longer due to the fact they need to however due to the fact they certainly should,” he stated. “They’re equipped to paintings, take a look at, combine and enhance the economy, however they could simplest try this if given the possibility.”

“I might say: open the doors, assist those humans, supply them the possibility to show off themselves. They ought to enhance your economy – those humans are equipped to paint, they’re equipped to take a look at and combine into society, however they could simplest try this in case you supply them the possibility.”

Over lunch at a Senegalese eating place in Naples, Bojang contemplated on his enjoyment over the previous few years. “I suppose humans should open their eyes … immigrants aren’t a threat. We all have aims, desires, and knowledge…, we’re all humans. People say we come right here to scouse borrow their jobs and their matters. I say supply humans a possibility, try and assist them learn.

“If you’re an immigrant without files or a process, you may come to be on the streets promoting drugs,” he stated. “All people right here have skills, we’ve all been to faculty – immigrants have to be taken into consideration as humans, as a resource.”

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