Standing for Intercultural Mixing and Participation among Migrants in Italy
On 19-20 November 2012 the Italian Network of Intercultural Cities, “Cittŕ del Dialogo”, held a school of best practices in Reggio Emilia (Italy). Based on the recognition of the diversity advantage, the event was dedicated to sharing lessons learnt by Italian cities in terms of intercultural dialogue, governance and living together.
Over 15 cities all across Italy presented projects aimed at enabling cross-cultural interaction and stimulating curiosity. For example, inhabitants of Lodi and Venice are invited to visit places of worship in their neighbourhood or to participate in a yearly exchange on religions. In Venice, residents with a different background are encouraged to visit their neighbours’ homes and to incite their children to do their homework together.
In Torino, residents, both children and adults, were asked how they imagined their neighbourhood in the future and how they would like to use it, prior to reconstructing the area. As a result of the consultations, a passing place was transformed in a meeting place for learning languages (Italian, Spanish and Arabic), playing games, talking to a mediator or exchanging books through a library, which went extremely popular among children. Another three residential areas are being reorganised basing on a management agreement between the City Council and the residents. This helped establish contact among residents, who now frequent daily meeting points just to stop and discuss. At the same time, residents easier engage in community management, taking care of public gardens and benches.
In Reggio Emilia, the Moroccan community participated in the creation of a park displaying Moroccan mosaic.
In Ancon and Senigallia, 20 flats were built for families with different backgrounds (Albanian, Iranian, Ukrainian, Chinese, etc.) and different needs. The flats were situated in an area on the city outskirts with a high population of factory workers and nurses. The project aim was not only to build housing but to foster integration and create happiness.
In Lodi, the Muslim community keenly participated in community activities, for instance by organising weekly lunches for old and lonely residents or by helping with transport for Christmas lunch in 2011. At the same time, a conflict related to building a Mosque in the area was resolved through intercultural mediation. It was also noted that positive interaction within neighbourhoods coupled with intercultural mediation by associations and citizens’ networks helped address security concerns and proved to be a viable alternative to police presence.
With this in mind, the Rubicone City Council conducted a project for aspiring women mediators to enable them to become facilitators and multiplicators.
To foster political participation among population with a migrant background, the city of Fuecchio put in place a so-called Council of Foreign People in 2007. It is composed of eleven representatives and a president of foreign origin. The president is entitled to make proposals at the City Council but has no right to vote. This experience was well received by migrant populations, especially of Chinese, Albanian and Moroccan origins. The municipality now intends to conduct a project to increase participation among migrant women and second generation youth.
At the same time, the participants in the School of Best Practices agreed that political participation among foreign-born residents remained very limited since they did not have the right to vote. Therefore, the participants signed a petition to the national Government to grant voting rights to foreign-born residents1. In another petition, the participants requested the national Government to grant Italian citizenship to children born to migrant parents living in Italy.
Lastly, three more Italian cities, Palermo, Olbia and Pizzo Calabro, were welcomed to the Italian Network of Intercultural Cities on the occasion of the School of Best Practices. Furthermore, a cooperation framework was established between the Italian Network and the Italian Association of Local Authorities (ANCI) with a view to further promoting intercultural dialogue, providing training on intercultural competence to Italian civil servants and to ensuring regular meetings between the parties in 2013.
1. The right of foreigners to vote is enshrined in the Council of Europe Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (1992), which entered into force in respect of Italy in 1997.