Overview of Present Refugee Situation in Italy


Present Refugee Situation in Italy


Refugee population by country or territory of asylum published by the World Bank

1994-98                1999-2003            2004-08                2009-13

Italy       54,965                   56,397                   58,060                   64,779

Throughout the whole of 2013, a total of 2,925 vessels of various shapes and sizes landed on Italian shores.

The number of refugees landing in Italy rose tenfold in January, the country’s deputy interior minister has said, complaining of an “incessant and massive influx of migrants”.

January 2014 saw a total of 2,156 migrants in Italy, compared to 217 the previous year, the official added.

“In 2013, Italy was subjected to an incessant and massive influx of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East,” Filippo Bubico told parliament.

Throughout the whole of 2013, a total of 2,925 vessels of various shapes and sizes landed on Italian shores, carrying about 43,000 people, including nearly 4,000 children. This represented a rise of 325 per cent on the previous year.

The Telegraph, 29 May 2014


An estimated 6,000 people, many of them Syrians and Eritreans, have been rescued by Italy’s navy in four days and thousands more asylum seekers keen to reach Europe have gathered in Libya, the U.N. refugee agency on Friday.

The UNHCR urged the European Union to help Italy provide more reception facilities and find “durable solutions” for asylum seekers fleeing war and persecution.

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said the Italian navy had rescued the migrants from more than 40 overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean off the shores of Sicily and Calabria.

“Large numbers of women and children, including newborns and unaccompanied children, are amongst them,” she told a briefing.

There has been a 10-fold increase in arrivals of asylum seekers this year compared to the start of 2013, she said.

“We expect these numbers to continue to rise. There are thousands in Libya and more boats have been spotted.”

Italy’s interior minister, reporting that about 4,000 had been rescued over the previous 48 hours, said on Wednesday that the crisis was getting worse. He said 15,000 migrants had arrived in Italy by sea so far this year.

The boats set off from Zwara in Libya and most of the asylum seekers were from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Gambia, Mali and Senegal, according to UNHCR.

“The Syria situation is getting worse and the neighboring countries are becoming overwhelmed so that is causing many Syrians to decide to travel to Europe to seek safety in search of protection in countries in Europe,” Fleming said.

Syria has already created a refugee population of over 2.6 million in Syria’s neighbors and Egypt, but UNHCR estimates hundreds of thousands more have fled the country without registering as refugees.

Rome has repeatedly urged the European Union to take a greater role in policing the seas as two-thirds of migrants who reach Italy travel onwards to other countries in the region.

“Italy needs support from the EU in increasing its reception possibilities,” Fleming said.

Reuters, 11 April 2014

“There is lack of adequate accommodation for families and children in Italy. The larger CARA provide inadequate accommodation for asylum-seeking children. Children with an international protection status are accommodated for a limited period of time at best. Numerous families and single parents with minor children therefore live in squats or church emergency shelters. …the living conditions of children in squats and emergency shelters constitute a risk to their physical and psychological safety, health and development. In Milan, families are systematically accommodated separately during the asylum procedure. In Rome this can also happen. Single mothers are additionally left with the dilemma of giving their children into institutional care to ensure that at least they are housed, or living together with them in desperate circumstances.

Only those who are housed in a centre receive food from the state. Others rely on welfare organisations, which distribute food in the cities. In view of the current economic situation the prospects of being able to support themselves are close to nil.”

Swiss Refugee Council, SFH-OSAR

Under the 2004‐2009 Hague Programme, separate forms of European cooperation on integration were set up for those working with beneficiaries of international protection vs. other categories of third‐country nationals (economic and family migrants). As such, beneficiaries of international protection have not been mainstreamed, but rather excluded, from the standard‐setting and financial instruments that make up the EU’s emerging de facto “Open Method of Coordination” on integration.

UNHCFR – Migration Policy Group

Addendum: Some of the organisations involved in the provision of services to refugees in Italy:

1) The Evangelical Alliance – Italy (Island of Lampedusa and Refugee Camp Mineo, Sicily)

2) Global Mercy Mission Project (in the process of building six international cities ‘Cities of Refuge’ (COR), as temporal safe sanctuaries for victims of terrorism, displaced due to wars, floods,…”for their welfare and salvation”.

3) OM Europe

4) SOS Children’s Villages (Catholic), Italy  (Six in all, Morosolo (Lake Como), Saronno (Milan), Vicenza, Trento, Roma, Ostuni (looking after refugee children, Social (Intake) Centre Mantua.)

An interesting phenomenon is the city of Riace, in the South of Italy; a previously dying town, (a world-wide phenomenon, due to people flocking to densely populated urban centres) which was revived due to the ingenuity of its mayor and others, as listed below:

Refugees revive a village in Italy’s deep south

A small town with a ‘tradition of hospitality’ is flourishing as a surge of immigrants provides the town with some much-needed economic impetus

By Francoise Kadri  /  AFP, RIACE, ITALY, Published in Taipei Times, Jul 10, 2011    

“An Ethiopian refugee poses at the exchange office next to the “Euro-Riace” banknotes created by the mayor and featuring pictures of Che Guevara, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr on June 22, in Riace, Italy.

Photo: AFP

Ethiopian pop songs blare as a group of African women sit embroidering in an impoverished hilltop town in southern Italy that has opened its arms to asylum seekers as a vital economic resource.

“The people of this village have a huge heart! It’s like family,” said Asadullah Ahmadzai, who arrived in Riace from Afghanistan four years ago and sells bags and jewelery from his homeland in this settlement of 1,800 people.

Ahmadzai, who has had two children with his wife in Riace, is one of about 200 refugees living in the town, who also hail from Balkan countries, Eritrea and Iraq. In a few days, 130 more refugees from Libya are expected to move in.

“These people are fleeing war. They’ve suffered torture, they’ve lived through dramatic events,” Domenico Lucano, the award-winning leftist mayor of the town, said in an interview in his decrepit office in the center.

Like many towns across southern Italy, Riace has been deserted over the past decades by inhabitants who have emigrated to the US, Argentina or more prosperous regions of northern Italy.

Now dozens of stone houses have been renovated to host refugees in the picturesque center of town, with its stunning views of the Mediterranean.

The tobacconist, the bakery and the fruit and vegetable shop are flourishing thanks to the new arrivals, who have taken up local artisanal trades.

A group of local pensioners in the town square said the refugees are welcome — a contrast to the xenophobic language used by the populist Northern League party in government and racist incidents in other parts of Italy.

Nicola, 87, said Riace had a “tradition of hospitality,” recalling that the town once hosted refugees from Gorizia — an Italian town on the border with what was then Yugoslavia that was overrun by Nazi troops during World War II.

The refugees say they have noticed the difference with other parts of Italy.

“I have worked in my friends’ restaurant in Ancona for up to 2,000 euros [US$2,900] a month. But my son was always crying. He wanted to go back to Riace. They treat foreigners badly there, they say bad things,” Ahmadzai said.

The arrival of the refugees has helped give Riace an economic stimulus.

“We’ve managed to reopen the school, put in place a micro-finance system and local -workshops where people from the village work together with the foreigners,” said Lucano, who has been in charge here since 2004.

“But mainly we’ve sent a -message of humanity to the world,” he said.

“This town of emigration with its social problems, with the mafia, has become a place of immigration,” he added.

Lucano last year won third prize in a world’s most popular mayor award.

The town’s social experiment has caught the interest of German film director Wim Wenders, who came last year and filmed a short 3D documentary film entitled Il Volo (The Flight), which features the mayor and the refugees.

Lucano criticized Italy’s policy of holding refugees in camps, calling them “detention centers and concentration camps” and saying it was ultimately more costly than allowing them to settle in small towns like his own.

Helen, who arrived from Ethiopia two years ago, has learned Italian, as well as traditional embroidery and carpet weaving since moving to Riace.

Her artisanal skills provide her with an extra 400 or 500 euros a month in regional subsidies on top of the 200 euros she gets as an asylum-seeker

 “There is war both in Ethiopia where my mother is from and in Eritrea where my father comes from. I don’t want to go back,” said Helen, whose five-year-old daughter was born in Ethiopia and two-year-old in Riace.

To overcome Italy’s slow-moving bureaucracy in receiving subsidies for the refugees, the mayor has even come up with a local currency called the “Euro-Riace,” with denominations ranging from five to 50 euros.

The tokens carry pictures of Che Guevara, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The village has also launched itself into ethical tourism, with a bed and breakfast and flats that are rented out in the spring to numerous school groups and curious tourists visiting this impoverished region.

The whole system is managed by the association Citta Futura (City of the Future, http://www.cittafuturariace.it), which has become the biggest employer in Riace, with 40 people working on the integration of refugees.

“Many people here have been given the opportunity to work again. I’m a teacher and I was without a job,” said Cosimina Ierino, who teaches parents to read in the morning and helps children with their homework in the afternoon.

“The workshops have allowed the revival of ancient skills like pottery and weaving. They have a therapeutic role for the refugees who get busy, socialize with others and learn a skill,” she said.”

This is a vivid picture and example of an abandoned village (Craco Basilikata), in the South of Italy: 

abandone city Craco Basilikata south italy



Compiled by Pia Horan, Worldwide Refugee Prayer Needs, June 2014

6 thoughts on “Overview of Present Refugee Situation in Italy

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