Lost Asylum

How Italy’s new anti-immigration law affects its small towns

01 May 2019
26-year-old Yordanos Gezae and her children, Fiona and Abanop, arrived in Camini from Asmara in 2013.
claudia bellante
26-year-old Yordanos Gezae and her children, Fiona and Abanop, arrived in Camini from Asmara in 2013.
claudia bellante

In the afternoon of 25 October 2018, 14-year-old Nidal and 15-year-old Haseeb walked through the narrow streets of Camini, a small town in the region of Calabria, in southern Italy. Nidal’s family had come from the village of Kafaroumah, at the gates of Idlib, a town in northwestern Syria where forces opposed to the regime of Bashar al-Assad still resist. Haseeb was from Lahore, in Pakistan, and had been in Italy for the past four years, with his 13-year-old sister Muskan. The two boys chatted and laughed as they headed for the multimedia classroom run by the local cooperative Jungi Mundu—which, in the Calabrian dialect, means “unite the world.” Their class that afternoon dealt with the age of European colonialism and the rise of nationalism.

Jungi Mundu was founded, in 1999, by Rosario Zurzolo. Zurzolo heads the protection system for asylum seekers and refugees—known by its Italian acronym, SPRAR—in Camini, in collaboration with the local municipality. Established in 2002, the SPRAR has been praised throughout Europe for facilitating the reception of immigrants. The project receives funds from Italy’s interior ministry. As of this January, there are 877 SPRAR projects covering over eighteen hundred municipalities in Italy.

The extraordinary reception centres established for immigrants—known by their Italian acronym, CAS—occupy dilapidated and overcrowded buildings in the suburbs of large cities. These are often managed by private companies, which, in collaboration with local mafias, have transformed the reception process into a business. However, the SPRAR makes vacant apartments available to immigrants. This makes the integration process more natural, since the immigrants are treated not as inmates in isolated spaces but as part of the local population. It also enables them to learn Italian, apply for jobs and contribute to the community.

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    Claudia Bellante is an independent Italian journalist who reports on social issues in Latin America. She collaborates with several magazines across the world, including Internazionale in Italy, Rhythms Monthly in Taiwan, and Marie Claire and El País in Spain.

    Keywords: Italy