Monday, February 5, 2018

Integration in Italian society: Is it possible?

Migrants rest outside 'Baobab' migration centre next to the Tiburtina train station in Rome on June 14, 2015. Credit: AFP
Integration in Italian society: Is it possible?
by Luis Canett, MIMS

It was 2 AM when I arrived at Fiumicino Airport from Los Angeles, California. Once I arrived in Rome, I decided to stay at the airport as I had a connecting flight in the next few hours. I remember being tired but I decided to stay awake because I was scared to lose my flight. My partner and I found a cozy spot near the departures section of the airport. There I saw a wide range of people from different countries, and ethnicities. I noticed that a group of African men holding green passports were questioned by local authorities. Their passports and other documents were quickly taken for inspection. I remember the faces of the men that were awaiting their flight, they looked terrified. I infer that there were no problems with their documents because after about 20 minutes, the officers came back and returned their passports.

With this in mind, I started the AGI Rome program run by the Masters in Management at USF. We had several sessions with local and governmental agencies to discuss a range of topics from integration to global policy. Based on the experience I had at the airport in Rome, I will focus on the conversation we had on integration. One organization/session that I found interesting was with CARITAS Rome. The room where we had the session was filled with images, maps, and words in Italian; this is where migrants learned Italian and Italian customs. Alicia Farina, the speaker, was very enthusiastic about her work. One aspect that I found interesting was the conversation around the Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (SPRAR). The purpose of SPRAR is to try to expose migrants to the Italian system. More specifically, as Farina expressed, SPRAR gives them (asylum seekers and refugees) the knowledge to get around Italian society through different programs such as: language, education, health care, and counseling.

Our discussions revolved around how these services can help immigrants integrate to Italian society. For instance, at Centro Astalli we listened to a story of a Cameroonian woman who moved to Italy several years ago. Her integration process seemed hard, but with enough support and encouragement she was successful and was able to open her own organization that helps other women in need. Her story was very moving, however, after my experience in the airport I concluded that integration is a two-way street. While immigrants are working hard to integrate, there are those in Italy that do not welcome refugees.

A couple of days ago, a man shouting “Italy for Italians” wounded six “people of color,” according to an article in the Washington Post. The news has shocked many in Italy, and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has condemned the attacks by urging all sides to “stop this cycle of violence.” This shooting has been used as a tool to promote anti-immigrant sentiment in Italy, where elections are taking place in March 2018. I think that integration will be part of the bigger discourse in the next few months to come in Italy as many organizations such as Caritas fight to help immigrants and other fight to expel 150,000 immigrants.