Between European Decline And Arab Spring, A Tunisian Immigrant In Italy Heads Home

The ebbs and flows of human migration include the moments when certain immigrants choose to return to their native land. Moncef Ghezal is set to go back to Tunisia after seven years of farm work in southern Italy. His story reflects big changes on both sh

There is anecdotal and some statistical evidence that more immigrants in Italy are choosing to return home. (ill_talebano)
There is anecdotal and some statistical evidence that more immigrants in Italy are choosing to return home. (ill_talebano)
Niccolò Zancan

CASSIBILE - Moncef Ghezal bought his 1997 BMW after seven years of hard work in Italy. It was his dream; now, it's his burden. He has no money to maintain it. "I paid 1,000 euros for it. It was a fair price for such a treasure. But I'd have to pay 700 euros for just six months of insurance. Then, there is the registration and the fuel, which is getting more and more expensive. I can't make it. I can't even use my own car. In the end, Italy didn't give me anything."

After saying this, Ghezal looks down, a bit ashamed. "I have lots of Italian friends. They are good people, who have helped me. I will miss them." This 31-year-old native of Tunisia is getting ready to go back home.

Life in Italy for this well-integrated immigrant is no longer worth pursuing. "Back in Hammamet my brothers got married, have families, and are building their homes. I haven't managed anything like that." He has just received his residence permit. He has finally secured a monthly salary of 1,260 euros. But Ghezal is giving up. He works in the flourishing Sicilian farmlands, but can't seem to cultivate a future for himself.

Every day, Ghezal can gaze across the sea toward Tunisia. He works in the town of Cassibile, in southeastern Sicily, as a laborer for a large agriculture enterprise that produces tomatoes in greenhouses.

We met during a recent lunch break at his small apartment. He held a tuna sandwich in a plastic bag and wore military pants and a Juventus soccer club cap. "I've always loved your soccer," he said. "This was one reason I was happy to move here."

He was a farmer in Hammamet too. He learned the job from his father, Jiliani. Every day, he saw trucks full of dates bound for France and Germany. In July 2005, he hid in one of those trucks under the fruit of his land. "I brought with me just a bottle of sugary water," he said, recalling how he didn't urinate for the whole voyage.

The truck arrived in Genoa harbor. Ghezal got off close to Brescia, in northern Italy. "I have a vivid memory of my first Italian night," he said. "I hid in a corn field, and was bit by mosquitos."

He spent just 24 days in northern Italy before finding work in the southern region of Puglia for 3.50 euros per hour. There, he met his current girlfriend Elena, a Romanian woman, who moved to Italy to work as an elderly caregiver. Together, they relocated to Sicily.

"Artichokes, zucchini, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes: I have picked everything," he says.

After years of illegal work, nine months ago, Ghezzal finally obtained his first legal contract. But he was already starting to have doubts about the immigrant life in Italy. "I suffered a lot when my father died. I didn't have my papers in order and I couldn't go to his funeral. It had already happened with my sister Mnufida's wedding," he said, pointing at the photographs of his family, on his nightstand.

Ghezal lives in an apartment in the center of the nearby village of Ispica, paying 300 euros a month in rent. Every morning, leaving his unregistered BMW behind, he goes to work in Cassibile, sharing an old Fiat Punto and the money for the fuel with a friend. "On Saturday, I play goalkeeper for a soccer team of Maghrebi. Once a week, I go out to eat a pizza with Elena. At home, we have a poodle, a cat and seven parrots."

As he talked, the television behind him showed images from the Tunisian national television. "While I was here, exploited and without documents, in my country they made the revolution. Tunisia has improved, and Italy is in a deep crisis," he said.

The longstanding social and economic differences between the two countries are diminishing. "My brother earns half of what I earn. But he is able to mantain two children." This is a source of suffering for him. "Elena is a very good woman, but she is 50 years old. She told me that I have to get back home and get married. Because I'm 31 years old and I'm starting to decline."

In 2012, in Italy the number of pleas for aided repatriation has doubled: 374 immigrants obtained tickets to go back home, paid for with European Union funds. But this is still a small number if compared with the actual number of homecomings. Only foreigners who have residence permits can apply.

Many of them see going back home as defeat. Moncef Ghezzal does not. Next August, he will drive his old BMW down the street of Hammamet. He got what he wanted. Italy's loss.

Read more from La Stampa in Italian

Photo - ill_talebano

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]


Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.


Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.



China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.


7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

➡️


"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.


​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.

Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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