By Linda Bordoni
Less migrants and refugees are setting foot in Italy than in previous years but they face greater difficulties in having their requests for protection processed and in integrating into society.
This is one of the findings of the annual report presented on Monday in Rome by the Jesuit-run Centro Astalli that offers assistance and accompaniment to refugees and forced migrants.
The report, which refers constantly to Pope Francis’ message for the last World Day of Migrants and Refugees urging us to ‘welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees’, highlights the fact that in Italy the ‘First Reception Centers’ continue to represent the main point of arrival and reference for those who arrive on Italian shores, notwithstanding the aim to create a transnational system with uniform standards.
Less arrivals are not a positive sign
It points out that the fact that less people are requesting protection in Italy is not a victory, but represents growing difficulties for those in need.
The report also revealed that Centro Astalli itself provided assistance to some 30,000 people in the course of 2017. Thanks to its 687 volunteers it was able to offer almost 60,000 meals to people in need in its centers in eight cities from the north to the south of the peninsula.
Over 1,000 asylum seekers were able to obtain protection in Italy in 2017 and thanks to a collaboration with schools, over 28,000 students were welcomed into the Italian education system and were given the opportunity to make their voices heard, “something that is becoming increasingly rare”.
Report presented on the same day as Pope’s apostolic exhortation
Highlighting a number of deficiencies in the system geared to receive, register and offer protection and shelter to the vulnerable people who arrive in Europe in search of a better future, the Centro Astalli report was presented on the same day as the publication of the Pope’s new apostolic exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate – on the call to holiness in today’s world” in which Francis points out that the plight of migrants is a central issue of our time saying “We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue” adding that welcoming the stranger at the door is fundamental to the faith “This is not a notion invented by some Pope, or a momentary fad.”
Asylum seekers living in increasingly precarious situations
Another problem underscored by the report is the fact that an increasing number of people who arrive in Italy find themselves excluded from the national reception programme and living in precarious situations and on the streets.
“In particular in Rome – the report reveals – many asylum seekers who have left the First Reception Centers end up deprived of all forms of accompaniment and support – be they both material and legal.”
In fact, following the legislation in March 2017 which forbids asylum seekers to use the address of registered centers such as the Centro Astalli for anagraphical reasons, their procedures for recognition and inclusion are suspended or even compromised, and this aggravates their conditions of precariousness.
Opening the press conference to present the annual report on Monday, Moussa, a refugee from Mali spoke of his own flight from violence in his country and of the terrible experience of having been imprisoned in Libya (where 1 migrant in 4 is tortured) before managing to embark on a vessel to Italy, a journey that – according to the report – sees 2 in every 100 migrants drown in the Mediterranean Sea.