Immigration has been a central issue of the international political debate for years now. TV News and magazines talk about it daily, but it is often an extremely security-oriented discussion. Immigration is constantly portrayed as a plague, a disease that needs to be treated, a threat to our safety. It’s a rhetoric that inevitably leads to an erosion of our democratic principles. The Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, has recently commented on this issue:
‘What is happening in many places at the borders of the Union is disturbing, the difference between the great principles proclaimed by the founding fathers of the European Union and the disregard for hunger and cold that people face at the borders of the European Union is astonishing […] There is only one antidote to the feeling of insecurity and fragility’, namely the ‘indispensable principles of the ethics of coexistence’
This kind of narrative often leads to the dehumanization of migrants. It makes us forget that they are just people like us. That is why we should be doing our best to help them out, by focusing our attention more on the integration process than on the security issue. In Italy, reception centers have sprung up in several cities in recent years. Among these are some particularly positive cases, which should serve as examples. These include CIAC Onlus. The Center for Immigration, Asylum and International Cooperation of Parma and Province was founded in 2001 as a place to develop and test projects and initiatives for the reception and protection of migrants. The basic idea is to accompany migrants on their journey by offering them moral, economic and legal support, helping them to learn the Italian language and culture, and enabling them to live freely in a community.
Among the various projects carried out by the Center, there are some particularly innovative ones such as that of the Tutor, a project launched in 2016. The tutor builds a meaningful interpersonal relationship with the migrant and provides emotional support on his journey of integration into society. The tutor also helps the migrant to become familiar with the area, community and culture in which he is integrated. During the duration of the project, the tutor and the migrant therefore keep in touch both by telephone and through various meetings. The tutor usually also helps the migrant to improve his language skills, to obtain a driving license, to read and understand bureaucratic and financial documents and to find a job and a place to live.
The Refugee in family project offers migrants the opportunity to live with a local family for a maximum period of nine months. Italian families therefore not only provide a home and material goods but represent a real network of support and assistance on which the refugee can count. The involvement of the Italian family is fundamental in building a real culture of welcome.
The project Tandem is an intercultural co-housing initiative between young Italians and young migrants. Participants in the project have the opportunity to live in an apartment for which they pay only 140 euros in rent per month. In return, they have to participate in active citizenship and volunteering activities, share moments of conviviality and jointly bear the costs of managing the apartment. In addition, the young participants of the project also carry out awareness-raising activities in different areas of the city.
In December 2019, the Center launched another initiative called Wonderful World in response to the Immigration and Security Decree No. 113/2018, which restricts access to the reception system SIPROIMI. The migrants who have joined the project live together in a house that can accommodate up to 15 people. About 30 Italian volunteers work every day to ensure the protection of the migrants and to assist them with various legal procedures. They also organize various social activities, from cooking to playing and singing together, and help the guests learn the language and find jobs. Even in 2020 during the pandemic, despite the national lockdown their work has not stopped, they continue to help and support, albeit in telematic mode. Furthermore, the project was recently chosen as best practice within the Siforref project (Social innovation for refugees).