On the 10th of January, a group of the stakeholders of the project met in Verona to discuss the main issues and needs of migrants, asylum seekers and people working with them in Italy. Below the report with the results of the focus group.

Participants:

  • Social – Health Authority “Aulss 9”: Gabriella Franzon, responsible of the office for migration issues of the District 4, comprising a population of about 200,000 inhabitants.
  • Centro sociale “Para Todos” (CSO) and D-Hub (meeting point for migrant women): Candela Corchero – activist, cultural mediator and trainer for handicraft.
  • Social Co-operative “Spazio Aperto”: Eleonora Rizzi, responsible of a residential center for young African women (victims of trafficking).
  • Cestim – Study & Research Centre for Migration, specialized in language learning and linguistic – cultural mediation: Tommaso Rinaldi, researcher, teacher and trainer.
  • Virtus Vecomp Verona – organization engaged in asylum seekers welcoming and inclusion: Massimiliana Della Camera and Margherita Aldrighetti, hubs coordinators.
  • This report is enriched with the interview of Stefano Schena, president of ASFE Verona and Trento – vocational training institution, who could not attend the focus group but answered to our questions the day before.

The participants’ contribution has been collected through the help of some key questions as follow.

  1. What are the main issues around the socialization and integration of these groups [migrants and asylum seekers] at risk in the country?
  • Precarious/weak legal status of a large part of the migrant population.
  • “Bureaucratic barrier” in legal procedures.
  • Racism (and fear of “difference”) quite spread among the local population, that reached dangerous dimensions because of the role of media and the electoral advantage that these feelings bring to some political parties.
  • Lack of a national policy that clearly defines competences, resources, rules and quality standards for migrants’ education.
  • Difficulties in learning Italian.
  • Lack of education/training/support addressed to migrants, concerning requirements and procedures to participation and integration. Very often, a migrant or an asylum seeker is totally disoriented.
  • Lack of a strong network that gathers the different, little communities of migrants and joins them to the local social tissue (for instance, in Verona there is an Association gathering a lot of people coming from Gambia and Senegal, but it works alone and is quite isolated from other groups). Mutual help among migrants and migrants’ associations/clubs can be a winning first step, because a “newly arrived” can trust more in them than in local people, and can start to develop friendship and social relations.
  • At the moment, there are many actors but there isn’t any “movie director”. CSOs engaged in the field need new forms of coordination, organization and work, to share values and competences, to create synergies, to overcome a self-reference attitude.
  • Other CSOs and enterprises, not actually engaged but that could help integration processes, are afraid of unpopularity (or in general are afraid of the challenge), so they avoid to adopt policies and initiatives for migrants’ inclusion.
  • Lack of knowledge by CSOs and enterprises concerning migrant issues and their real profiles; this produces various difficulties, e.g. for job inclusion.
  • Many intervention schemes are not based on the active involvement of the migrant him/herself. To listen and engage him/her is absolutely necessary to understand needs and search solutions.
  • Migrants are not represented in the political and social life. They often are the “stone guests” in the local social life.

 

 

  1. What is your impression – is education well structured for migrants and Asylum seekers in terms of time, classes, information included, etc.? Did you feel comfortable with using the materials available on civic education with migrants and Asylum seekers? Do you think there is a need for extra training for the professionals? (if yes, explore who would need training, how and where?)

Generally speaking, the group thinks that in Verona education opportunities exist and are wide, but with the following limits (many of which concern also the most disadvantaged groups of Italians):

  • Operators often neglect that the first need for a migrant adult is to work and have incomes; education and training must be based, first of all, on this basic need.
  • Timing often doesn’t meet migrants’ needs and possibilities.
  • The audience is precarious (asylum seekers are not stable in the territory; migrants often start attending courses after their natural beginning and leave them before their natural end, etc.).
  • Part of the audience is illiterate, and we don’t yet belong effective methods to teach language (and consequently other subjects) to them.
  • Language learning is not crossed with job-oriented learning, so it appears abstract and useless.
  • Language learning is mainly based on formal methods, with a lack of offer of informal learning (e.g., “groups of conversation” in pubs and social hubs).
  • Formal education (offered by the public school) foresees subjects and contents too difficult for most of the migrants; difficulties grow for the language barrier too; traditional methods (lectures and so) are very distant to the normal way of learning of adults, especially if coming from extra-EU countries.
  • Access to courses is difficult for many segments of the target – group, e.g. for mothers with little children, because of the lack of babysitting, or for people living in villages, because of the lack of cars and buses…
  • Who is offering education and training, often neglects the need to firstly motivate migrants and to explain everything (training objectives, methods, usefulness…) in a very simple way.
  • In general, available didactic materials are few, not specific and ineffective.
  • There is a lack of specific training/support for educators and trainers that must work with migrants.
  1. Do you think that specific teaching material is likely to improve the civic skills of migrants? If not, why not? 
  2. What are your thoughts on the format of such a teaching material? (explore different options i.e. separate sheets, information on the backside, posters etc.)
  3. What are your thoughts on the content that should be included? Is there anything that needs to come off? Is there anything you feel should be on and is not in the other teaching materials? 
  4. How would it be easier to use/implement according to your opinion?
  • The group thinks that migrants’ (civic) education must be based on an active and experiential pedagogy.
  • Visual educational resources (like video-tutorials and others) can be very useful, more than texts and books.
  • Educational resources should concern, first of all, “how to do” in daily tasks in the hosting country.

 

  1. What you believe should be civic education for migrants in order to facilitate and encourage their social inclusion?
  • Crossed with mentoring (involvement of local people and migrants already integrated, as mentors for newly arrived migrants). Local associations and potential mentors (volunteers) must be trained on how to facilitate effective integration processes.
  • Prepared by careful work on motivation and linguistic-cultural mediation.
  • More based on life- skills, on the one hand, and more job – oriented on the other.
  • More occasions of informal language learning (like “groups of conversation” in pubs and social hubs).
  • Internships in work-places could be a first step to address migrants to vocational courses, where they could also improve life skills and social competences.

 

Concluding question

Of all the things we’ve discussed today, what would you say are the most important issues you would like to express on the subject?

Networking (starting from migrants’ associations) and efforts to innovate methods and tools for migrants’ civic education.