For Vice News/ The Lancet:


Since 2014, more than 600 000 people, mostly from west Africa, have taken rickety boats, overcrowded to the point of sinking, to the Italian shores. They are traumatised, sick, and frustrated from an arduous crossing. Once they arrive, they do not speak the national language, they do not know their rights and they are nervous about engaging with the Italian Government.


With this distressed population in flux in a completely new environment, cultural mediators (sometimes called intercultural mediators) such as Ousmane Thiam have become crucial players in the humanitarian space in countries such as Italy that have seen a massive increase in migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. 


Mediators are a relatively new type of humanitarian professional, and are often the first point of contact as boats hit land, a touch point as the arrivals are processed through a reception centre, and later act as liaisons between the informal settlements, where migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers often live, and the hospitals, clinics, and various government entities.


Life does not get easier upon arrival. Migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees stay in reception processing centres that often do not meet basic living standards. Once they are released after months or even years, they can deal with racism from locals, struggle to nd work, and have to live hand-to-mouth. Thiam comments that all this compounds the previous trauma: the men and women can see all they have gone through to have their hopes dashed and the situation can be worse than they imagined. This can put many in a state of total agony.

Ousmane Thiam, a cultural mediator for the non-profit Emergency International, takes a phone call from an abandoned factory that now houses hundreds of migrants. Located just outside Rosarno's Tendopoli, or tent city, the building and many surrounding it are now the home to hundreds of asylum seekers.

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A refugee from The Ivory Coast needing Ousmane's help poses for a portrait on the outskirts of "Tendopoli" in Calabria, Italy.

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Ousmane coordinates a ride to the medical clinic for a refugee living in "Tendopoli." 

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Refugees seeking asylum in Europe gather for dinner in a tent on a rainy afternoon in Calabria, Italy. 

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Refugees seeking asylum in Europe gather for dinner in a tent on a rainy afternoon in Calabria, Italy.

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Ousmane takes a refugee to the Emergency UK medical clinic serving the needs of those seeking asylum from all over the world. 

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Ousmane works the case of an injured refugee. 

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A rare moment of peace at home for Ousmane with his wife is interrupted by a phone call from a refugee needing assistance.

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The DJ booth spinning reggae and the makeshift bar serving beer, soda, and liquor in "Tendopoli" is one of few places where refugees can blow off steam. 

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Ousmane meets refugees seeking information on medical assistance at a makeshift bar in "Tendopoli." 

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Ousmane collects information from a refugee seeking medical assistance above the boom of Bob Marley remixes blasting over the loudspeakers. 

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