Salaam Palace translates as the “peace palace” in Arabic. One of the most well known examples of a makeshift community, Salaam houses 800 refugees from four East African countries (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan). The Palace was a former university and has been used as a shelter since 2006.
An intricate world created out of necessity, the residents of the palace co-exist peacefully despite cultural and religious differences. When refugees first arrive in Rome, those who have heard of the palace, set out to find it. A council of eight representatives run Salaam. They manage the building. If there is a dispute between residents, they attempt to solve the problem immediately.
The council members are elected positions and each country has two representatives. There is a sense of safety and trust within the walls of Salaam Palace. This forged micro-universe ultimately reflects the need for acceptance, belonging and community. Mahad Abdi is one of the Somali representatives from the council. He calls Salaam Palace, home.
“Comunita la Pace,” meaning the Community of Peace, is another example of a makeshift community. It is located next to a highway on vacant land near the Ponte Mammolo train station. From an aerial shot, the mass of buildings look like a slum in the middle of a quiet neighbourhood [see below].
In 2005, the refugees physically created this makeshift community. It can be considered a slum because of the self-created huts and garbage surrounding the area. Using cement, boards and other materials, a group of refugees constructed homes here. Now, more than 100 refugees live in the camp. The ethnic communities that reside inside Comunita la Pace include Ethiopians, Eritreans, Egyptians, Moroccan and people from eastern Europe. One former resident shared information about the camp. According to him, the church and various NGO’s often deliver food and medication. He says that during the winter, living becomes difficult because there is no electricity. The residents go across the street and get water from a nearby fountain. The residents have tried to make this place home and built two small cafés.
For a glimpse of this secret community, see below:
© 2014 Living at the Border