From Mali to Brindisi


African Community, Brindisi

When I was living in the ghetto, the breakthrough came: I was hired as a dishwasher in a restaurant and I fell in love with Italian cuisine. So I studied to become a chef, I’ve learned Italian and I learned how to cook. Soon, the first regular employment contracts came, and now I’m free. But I have not forgotten how much I suffered in the ghettos, so I decided to take action against migrant exploitation.

Drissa Doumbya


Drissa Doumbya fled Mali in 2007. He escaped in search of a future in Europe. To do that, he had to face a long journey that took him to the desert between Mali and Algeria first, where he was captured and robbed by a jihadist group, then to Libia, where he stayed for some time until he scraped together enough money to pay his sea voyage to Italy.

As soon as he arrived in our country, he experienced the difficulties so common to migrants. Once out of the reception circuit, he had nothing in his pockets and not even the possibility to attend training courses, so he winded up on the streets, forced to sleep in the Syracuse train station. Some time later, in Palermo, a friend convinced him to leave for Apulia to join the tomato harvesting. This was the beginning of his odyssey in the agricultural sector: for years he worked in the countryside of Foggia, Rosarno and Brindisi, hired illegally by men who forced him to live in the slums of Capitanata and of the plain of Gioia Tauro.

His experience as a laborer, made up of physical abuse and heavy psychological repercussions, ended with a new job offer, that arrived when he was still living in the ghettos. Drissa was hired as a dishwasher in a restaurant, fell in love with Italian cuisine, and decided to study to become a chef. He learnt the Italian language and honed his cooking skills, so he finallly made his first experiences with contractual work. In a short time, this finally allowed him to free himself from precariousness.

However, he didn’t forget what he suffered, that’s why he’s decided to engage in the fight against migrant exploitation. In Brindisi, his adopted city, he founded one of Apulia’s first African communities, and later also the Malian Solidarity Association. Active in the third sector, today Drissa is a reference point for the migrant communities in Brindisi, and collaborated with numerous institutions of the Apulian third sector, committing to support the laborers victims of exploitation in agriculture and the women victims of trafficking, and to promote the psychological well-being of the migrants, as well as the overcoming of the housing emergency.