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Widespread hospitality

A decentralised approach for asylum seekers
Forli / Italy
Size of city: 
118 167 habitants

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Serena Nesti
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Summary

Forlì (IT) and the Union of surrounding towns were faced with the challenge of managing a high number of asylum seekers in a centralised way. Confronted with the burden of social services, plus the negative reactions of the press and the inhabitants, the Union put in place a territory-wide approach to welcoming them. Their aim: integrate the asylum seekers in local communities based on the availability and resources in each town of the Union.
By sharing information, mutualising knowledge and a joint management system, the Union succeeded in building a widespread welcoming system for asylum seekers over its entire territory. Spillover effects: it avoided ghettoisation and speculation on the migration phenomenon.

The solutions offered by the good practice

The Municipality of Forlì and the “Unione dei comuni della Romagna forlivese“ (hereinafter “Union”) good practice adopt a sustainable approach in the Union to deal with the asylum seekers problem, promoting an integration of asylum seekers in local communities of the Union and organising them in "small groups". This allows a proper and regulated welcome and avoid negative social impacts. The Municipalities, through ASP - Azienda Pubblica dei Servizi alla Persona - (the public company for individual services), will welcome and support asylum seekers, according to its own available resources and funds, by integrating its services with services dedicated to an efficient hospitality. They will share information on how to offer hospitality to asylum seekers and how to manage it in their local context. They encourage and increase integration. For instance, a neighbourhood committee is working alongside with asylum seekers to take care of the common areas. They seek and promote the involvement of citizens in order to ensure social cohesion and territorial development. The ASP coordinates the widespread welcome system in close collaboration with the municipalities, with the national government through the prefecture and with third sector organisations, who run the shelters.

Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

In 2014, the “Unione dei comuni della Romagna forlivese“ (the Union) was founded. Fifteen Municipalities of the Forlì-Cesena Province, which includes Forlì itself, are part of this Union.
The aim of the Union is: to improve services, to guarantee equal access to services for the residents of the Union and to promote and coordinate the well balanced development of the territory for the benefit of future generations. Thus, the Union has a sustainable and integrated approach to solving problems in its own territory. The good practice tackles the urban challenge of asylum seekers through:
• The coordination and management of hospitality in the Union;
• The adoption of an operators network - with different skills - by giving them a share of resources for cross-cutting projects (emergency, job placement, sports...).
The good practice is built on the sustainable and integrated approach to tackle the urban problem and management of asylum seekers, in line with URBACT's principles of sustainable urban living. The good practice is based on measures designed for the social inclusion of asylum seekers.

Based on a participatory approach

Municipalities of the Union are all involved in the Widespread Hospitality project. The Union held a jointly weekly meeting with the aim to share information, to oversee the situation, to discuss on how to manage problems, to find solutions to offer hospitality to asylum seekers and to manage it in their local context. A framework agreement between among parties (public, private and social areas) has been established. The agreement provides socially useful activities for involving asylum seekers. Those activities are accompanied by citizens. Thus, several neighbourhood committees are part of the project and they work alongside with the asylum seekers to organise the joint care of the common areas, in order to encourage and increase integration. Eventually, the local police are constantly involved.

What difference has it made?

We have a model of welcome and hospitality which works with integration, in order to avoid ghettoisation and speculation on the migration phenomenon. The effectiveness of our good practice is that we do not concentrate asylum seekers in one place, but we address them in several different places located in the Union area. This kind of organisation facilitates inclusion and integration, avoiding the arising of fear and tensions in the local population. In this way, the professionals involved are able to work professionally, trying to achieve full inclusion.
Moreover, the placement of asylum seekers in the Union area is also possible thanks to a detailed mapping of all the structures which accept to host migrants. The opening of the centres is shared with ASP, which is the official coordinator, and then the prefecture is alerted. The least densely populated areas are preferred, in order to avoid concentration in the common centres.
Before this project, asylum seekers were seen as invaders of public spaces, creating unease among citizens of the territories and negative reactions, with consequences towards refugees.

Why should other European cities use it?

The "migrants" theme is an issue that concerns all Europe. Data show that, in recent years, a growing number of asylum seekers and migrants began to turn to the European Union to apply for asylum, travelling across the Mediterranean Sea, or through Turkey and south-eastern Europe. The EU provides fundings for border patrol operations in the Mediterranean. How to manage migrants is a common problem to deal in each country. Our good practice promotes an integration of migrants in local communities of our area. Migrants are organised in "small groups" and their integration is facilitated with shared projects with local stakeholders. With this system, asylum seekers may become tomorrow a rich resource of experience. It takes into account the human capital.