My name is Rommel Pazmino and I’m a junior studying Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park at the Universities at Shady Grove. This summer I decided to study abroad in Italy to better understand the vulnerabilities associated with being a refugee in Italy. As a Criminology and Criminal Justice major, I have a passion to help and assist people who are in need of help. However, before you can help others you need to know their individual stories to be able to help them. In the news we hear a lot about immigration policy changes, undocumented people being deported, kids being separated from their families and we are too busy thinking about what is happening here that we forget about the rest of the world.
The truth is that today, the world has a migration and immigration crisis and it’s not just a problem in the U.S or Europe. Other countries in Latin America and in the Middle East are going through the same thing. Unfortunately, this crisis makes immigrants, migrants, and refugees very susceptible to human trafficking due to their vulnerabilities. Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry and it’s considered a form of modern slavery. This criminal industry exploits millions of children and adults every day. This is a topic that many people don’t know about.
During my trip, I developed an understanding of the reactions to human trafficking, both by the government as well as non-profit organizations. I also participated in activities in a non-profit setting in order to understand the challenges faced by both the organization and the people it serves. LESS, the non-profit that I visited in the city of Naples, was a wonderful well-organized institution that has dedicated 19 years to the growing migrant population in Italy. LESS provides activities and projects that are part of an integrated support system for social inclusion to prevent failure of integration, inequality, marginalization, and discrimination against migrants. Some of their programs and activities include psychological support ( for victims of human trafficking), legal advice and support, writing center (for resumes), ELICA (program with integration activities in the community), WIU (art classes for adolescents), IARA-AIDA (programs that provide Italian lessons, internships, job opportunities, counseling, food and shelter). Overall, LESS “emphasizes the importance of building a community in which refugees are socially integrated with the public.”
Marco, a member at LESS, said that politicians and the media in Europe portray migrants as a flood, invasion or swarm, when in reality migrants benefit the community and economy. The truth is that “people who flee crises are seeds, scattered by a storm. When too many seeds are stuffed into one farm’s soil, few germinate and everyone loses. If farmers fear this outcome enough, those fears can become self-fulfilling. As each farmer pushes the seeds downhill onto someone else’s land, they pile up and become a burden. Alternatively, farmers share the seeds and all reap a rich harvest” – Michael A. Clemens.
This experience changed my worldview and I was able to feel a connection with the refugees because even though my story is different I’m also a migrant. I’m glad that there are places like LESS that truly care for people in need. Italy is a beautiful country with warm people that made me feel like I was home. I am thankful for the adventures I had, for the people I met, the culture I was exposed to, and the lifelong memories I’ve made. My study abroad experience will forever hold a special place in my heart. Finito, allora andiamo!