Early this month, Mediterranean Hope (MH) – Refugees and Migration Programme of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy- in cooperation with our member Diaconia Valdese’s Centro La Noce organized an international conference titled: “Living and Witnessing the Border: An International conference on Migration, Borders and Reception.”
The international conference held in Palermo, Sicily, brought together participants and speakers from the United States, Germany, France, Hungary and Spain, in addition to Italy. The 10 sessions spread across an intense three-day event featured round table discussions each with a different topic and panelists with differing backgrounds and experiences. Thus, conference participants were able to hear from people who had themselves cross borders while facing many difficulties and dangers, aid workers who have been assisting migrants in different parts of the world, as well as academics and journalists working in the field.
A high point of the conference was the session devoted to group work. Participants were assigned to one of three groups: Reception on the border: sharing of experience (conducted in English), Reception and Integration (conducted in Italian), and Civil Society, human rights and advocacy (conducted in English and Italian). After 2 hours of intense work in the groups, each reported in plenary, raising specific points. The group on Reception and Integration, in which I took part, underlined the importance of speaking out and contesting the false narratives often given in the press about the numbers, reasons for and impact of migration. Another key point for this group was the necessity of creating reliable mechanisms for sharing best practice with regard to initiatives favoring inclusion and integration
The Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy decided to continue to draw attention to the horrendous loss of life suffered by people seeking to leave their countries in search of a better life. After the death of 368 people who drowned seeking to land on the shores of Italy in October 2013, the Federation, in collaboration with Comunità di Sant’Egidio, approached the Italian government proposing the creation of safe and legal corridors for victims of the Syrian war to an assured asylum status in Italy. An accord was signed with the Italian government in December 2015 to launch the project Mediterranean Hope, a project whereby Syrians who had been screened in consular offices located in Lebanon, Morocco and Ethiopia could be safely transported by plane to Rome. The project is to last for 2 years and will host 1000 people. Personnel from MH took part in the Conference.
Eurodiaconia Board Member and CSD Vice-Chair