From Slavery to the Fashion Industry

With immigration being one of, if not the, biggest topic of discussion amongst Italian policy makers, those reading the papers are bombarded with all the negativity regarding foreigners entering Italy. But, not all migrant stories have a disagreeable tone. Lai-momo is a social cooperative society that provides services in the field communication, carries out research and provides technical assistance for development. The group possesses an in-depth knowledge of topics relating to migration giving it the ability to offer a broad range of solutions in all types of educational and cultural projects.

One of these projects is training asylum seekers in one of Italy’s finest arts: making leather handbags. Some 400 recently-arrived immigrants are being cared for by Lai-momo’s EU-funded leather skills project in the small town of Lama di Reno near Bologna. A former forced labor worker in Libya who arrived in Italy, by boat, a little over two years ago is now the star student of this novel project. Bassirou stepped onto Italian soil, after fleeing his native Burkina Faso in West Africa, accompanied by his pregnant partner in 2015. The father of his now 2-year-old daughter says he fled because he feared for his life in the tumultuous aftermath of another military coup in the impoverished country. However, upon entering Libya, he experienced a new and unexpected hell being prisoned, starved, forced to work, and auctioned as a slave. Now he dreams of opening his own atelier someday. Lai-momo’s project gives Bassirou and others like him a sense of belonging and a sense of relief.

Although the vast majority of migrants to Italy don’t benefit from the kind of support Bassirou gets from Lai-momo, those who do can pursue an education and find work. “The objective is to provide people with the ability and skills they need to enter the labour market here in Italy, but also in the event of a possible return to their country of origin,” said Lai-Momo’s president, Andrea Marchesini Reggiani to The Sun Daily. The Lama di Reno project is part of a wider program overseen by the Ethical Fashion Initiative run by the United Nations and WTO-backed International Trade Centre with the aim of creating new economic opportunities in developing countries to help curb irregular migration.