"A Good Start"  Extraordinary Measures for Reception of Forced Migrants in Rome

Project location: ITALY, Rome
Project start date: November 2011 - Project end date: November 2012
Project number: 2011-34
Beneficiary: Associazione Centro Astalli


60 years after the Geneva Convention, Italy is still not ready for the reception of forced migrants. Year after year an emergency-approach goes together with an incorrect information: lack of awareness and imprecise messages from the media bring to a criminalization of refugees, especially of the most vulnerable.

According to the data of Italian Ministry of the Interior, during 2009 17.603 foreign citizens have applied for asylum. After the exam of 23.944 applications (including some presented in 2008), a form of international protection was recognized to about 31%   (refugee status or subsidiary protection). People who obtained protection in Italy in 2009 were mainly Somali, Eritrean and Afghani citizens.
In 2009 the number of asylum applications was sensibly lower because of the agreements with Libya which almost completely stopped the arrival of refugees from Eastern Africa. Nevertheless, the reception system is still insufficient. At the end of 2008 more than 1000 person was in the waiting list of the National Reception System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees, which offers only 3000 places all over the country.
The situation in Rome is particularly critical. Many refugees and other forced migrants live in Rome because of the presence of specific services and foreign communities, which can offer an informal network of support to newcomers. There is no precise data on the presence of asylum seekers and refugees in Rome: the Municipality makes an esteem of about 8.000, but it is important to consider that only in 2008 about 18.000 new asylum applications were presented in Rome.
Forced migrants who live in Rome do not receive an effective answer to their needs from the institutional services. The available places in accommodation centers financed by Comune di Roma are about 1.200: this situation creates long waiting lists and brought to the occupation of public and private abandoned buildings, where large communities of forced migrants from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Ethiopia live in critical conditions. A very worrying element is the very unsatisfactory access to sanitary services: according to a report on the condition of refugees living in Rome, only 39% of them is regularly registered to National Health Service (Medici per i Diritti Umani, Report 2009).

The project "A good start" will enhance first reception services for forced migrants living in Rome through a soup kitchen, health services and reception centers.

Soup kitchen
The first approach of forced migrant to social services offered by Centro Astalli/JRS Italy is through the soup kitchen. The service is active five days a week and it is not limited to serving a meal: social workers are always present to offer information to newcomers and start to assist forced migrants for their specific needs. Special attention is given to single women and victims of torture.
In order to answer to the critical situation in Rome, Centro Astalli has planned the supply of 100.000 additional meals.

Health service
Public health service is often of difficult access for forced migrants and the public staff is too often unprepared to answer to the specific needs of this kind of users. Centro Astalli works in close collaboration with Public Health Service to facilitate the access of forced migrants, with trained social workers and linguistic and cultural mediators and, at the same time, to enhance the capacity building of the doctors and medical staff.
Considering the number of victims of torture and traumatized people who asked for support during the last six month, Centro Astalli has planned to activate 300 specific programs of support for vulnerable forced migrants, including access to health service, psychological and psychiatric support, linguistic services within the Center Sa.Mi.Fo. (Health for Forced Migrants) run by Centro Astalli in collaboration with ASL RM/A.

Reception centers
JRS Italy runs three reception centers for forced migrants in Rome ("San Saba", "La casa di Giorgia", "Pedro Arrupe"): they are not only night shelters, but places open 24h where the migrant can find any kind of social support, language lessons, counseling and integration services. All the activities are tailored on the specific need of the guests, which are single men, single women with children and families.
The project "A good start" will finance the reception and accompaniment of 100 forced migrants in the reception centers for 12 months.
"San Saba" center is the oldest of Centro Astalli structures in Rome: officially founded in 1997 in a former cinema of the parish of San Saba on Aventino hill, used as emergency shelter since 1989, "San Saba" center urgently needs refurbishing and restoration. During more than 20 years, "San Saba" center offered a recover to thousands of refugees from all over the world: Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Kossovo, Colombia... Now the majority of guests come from Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea: they are young men who only need an opportunity to start again their life in our country. "San Saba" center has also an important symbolic value: next to the historical church of San Saba, in the very heart of Christian Rome, testify the concrete engagement of the Society of Jesus for the most vulnerable victims of the conflicts and wars of our world.
The project "A good start" will give a contribution for the refurbishing of "San Saba" center.

Anticipated achievements or outcomes of the Project
In 12 months of activity, the project "A good start" will give the following outcomes:

- 100.000 additional meals in the soup kitchen;
- 300 programs of health support for vulnerable forced migrants;
- reception and orientation for 100 forced migrants in the reception centers;
- a contribution for the refurbishing of "San Saba" center.

Associazione Centro Astalli started its activity in 1981, right after the creation of Jesuit Refugee Service by Fr Pedro Arrupe, who was then Superior General of the Society of Jesus. Its mission is to accompany, serve and defend the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced people. The Association operates through concrete actions of support for asylum seekers and refugees in every phase of their experience in Italy, from the arrival to integration in the society. Considering all the different territorial seats, Centro Astalli meets every year about 26.000 forced migrants. Associazione Centro Astalli is the Italian branch of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). It works in collaboration with the International Office of JRS based in Rome and with the European office based in Brussels.
During the years, Centro Astalli has widened and better structured its services, which are now organized in first access services (for newcomers), orientation services (to facilitate the access to labor market and the integration into Italian society) and cultural activities, in collaboration with Centro Astalli Foundation.
The Association is member of the National Council for Immigration promoted by Ministry of Welfare and of the Territorial Council for Immigration promoted by the Prefecture of Rome. It takes part to the National Table for Asylum, a network of the main bodies which work in the field. Centro Astalli works also in several tables for coordination in the different fields where the Association operates, such as health, accommodation and social care.
In 30 years of continuous and direct service to this group of beneficiaries, also through collaboration and partnership with other NGOs and local authorities, Associazione Centro Astalli has developed a solid methodology of intervention for a service whose main objective is helping each person to reach a full autonomy and integration.
think global, act local
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