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Personal Reflections on the Human Cost of Immigration Policy

Personal Reflections on the Human Cost of Immigration Policy

On a sunny Sunday morning in March, 1997, my mother and 11-year-old brother decided on an impromptu trip to the beach in Durres, Albania. They sought a temporary escape from the current turmoil in the midst of the chaos that was sweeping the country in the wake of the collapse of fraudulent financial firms.

As they strolled along the shoreline, a sudden eruption of gunfire shattered the serene scene. Realizing that these were not celebratory fireworks, but the ominous shots of AK-47 rifles, the mother instinctively picked up her son and began sprinting for safety.

The days that followed were filled with uncertainty and fear. My mother and brother took refuge in a center for displaced persons in Fasano, Italy, while I stayed in Durres, anxiously awaiting news of their fate.

Thankfully, they managed to escape the riots and eventually reached Rome, where they found refuge with an elderly woman named Ms. Caterina. Despite the anti-Albanian sentiment prevalent in her community, Ms. Katerina welcomed the displaced mother and son with open arms, providing them with a safe haven in the midst of great suffering.

Personal Reflections on the Human Cost of Immigration Policy

My mother’s experience is a heartbreaking reminder of the human cost of immigration policies that often prioritize border security over the well-being of asylum seekers. The establishment of detention centers in Albania marks a troubling development in Italian immigration policy, mirroring the harsh reality of extraterritorial processing protocols implemented in other countries.

The term “administrative detention” is a euphemism for the harsh reality of imprisonment without trial. Already traumatized by the journey, detainees face isolation, uncertainty and degrading conditions, often leading to deteriorating mental health and even suicidal thoughts.

The recent agreement between Italy and Albania mirrors similar arrangements between Australia and Nauru, the United Kingdom and Rwanda, and the United States’ use of Guantanamo Bay to detain Haitian asylum-seekers. These agreements effectively cede territorial sovereignty to wealthier nations, allowing them to exert control over immigration policies within the borders of less powerful countries.

While the Albanian government has agreed to provide assistance to deceased migrants, it is a grim reminder of the ultimate cost of these policies. Ms. Katrina provided a safe haven for my mother and brother during their flight, and despite the anti-Albanian sentiment prevalent in her community, Ms. Katrina was a model of true hospitality.

My mother’s experience in Italy was not without its challenges. She faced prejudice and discrimination, and was often referred to as an “Albanian caregiver” (batante), emphasizing her ethnicity rather than her personal identity.

Despite these obstacles, my mother persevered, worked, provided for her family, and built a life in a new country. Her story, and the stories of countless others, highlight the resilience and determination of immigrants seeking refuge and opportunity outside their borders.

The human cost of immigration policy cannot be ignored. The creation of detention centers and the implementation of extraterritorial processing agreements puts border security ahead of the well-being of asylum seekers. The human stories behind the statistics and policies must be kept in mind as we grapple with the complexities of immigration.

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