The starting point can be placed at the time of the Let’s Stop One Rifle at a Time campaign that we launched in Parma in 1993 to welcome and support deserters from war in the former Yugoslavia. After the fall of the Berlin Wall we discovered that the wars were not decreasing, on the contrary they seemed to increase and were coming very close. These are the years of the shocking explosion of the war in the former Yugoslavia.
Many groups in Italy, particularly in relation to ICS (Italian Solidarity Consortium), were committed against the war, and alongside the civilian population were experimenting with a form of “bottom-up diplomacy”. All European states condemned this conflict, but did nothing to resolve it diplomatically. Although Italy has never given itself a law on asylum, it had approved an unusual and very positive law: law 390/92 which, in article 2, established that deserters and conscientious objectors from the former Yugoslavia had the right to protection in Italy.
In 1994, through “Le Monde Diplomatique”, we learned that another association, the European Civic Forum, present in France, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, was conducting the same campaign in Europe. From the connection that was made with the European Civic Forum, the Parma campaign received recognition in Brussels in November 1994, and in 1995 we published the book Deserters from the War in the former Yugoslavia (ed. Alfazeta), which documented the experience of many people, not considered by the media, who in that country were committed to coexistence. From the municipality of Parma we had an apartment to carry out the reception, which we self-financed. We hosted objectors (deserters) from every region of the former Yugoslavia, from every ethnic group, from every religion and peaceful coexistence between them was always carried out as a demonstration of a theorem.
Despite having a suitable law, Italy had not arranged for the reception. Actually, many young deserters were rejected at the border and, despite the law, were expelled from Italy. Dzevad’s case marked a turning point for us: a Bosnian boy, who fled from enlistment, arrived in Udine, and from there was expelled. We welcomed him and made the appeal for him between Parma, Udine, and Turin. The lawyer who treated him was the president of ASGI, which is the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration. We won the appeal.
From then on, we continued to welcome
After the former Yugoslavs, it was time to aid the Kurds. Some evidence began to take shape: in Italy, the absence of an organic law on asylum explained the lack of state reception facilities and, therefore, left asylum seekers to fend for themselves. The commitment to volunteering was not enough, for then it was necessary to put pressure on the state to fulfill its duty of hospitality. The associations could succeed in involving the most attainable institutions: the municipalities, the provinces. It was also necessary to be able to protect, especially legally, the rights of foreigners. The matter was not part of the courses belonging to the faculty of law, there were very few expert lawyers in Italy.
We were able to share these issues with other associations, foreigners, and Italians as well as with trade unions. In 1999, with the support of Forum Solidarity (Parma Volunteer Service Center), we promoted the Immigration Asylum and Citizenship project which had among its actions: training and an in-depth course aimed at legal practitioners in the matter inherent to the condition juridical law of foreigners in Italy which was led by ASGI and held at the University of Parma. That was only the first course, we would organize even more in the following years.
CIAC, the Center for Immigration Asylum and Collaboration ngo, began in the later half of 2000 as the program Immigration, assylum, and citizenship came to an end, but was formally established in January of 2001. As our premise states, CIAC is:
-a legal archive, therefor, a center of open study;
-a center of expertise and knowledge to provide support for immigrants and foster solidarity
-a place of access for foreigners to the law or rather, a place of connection, where it is possible to see foreigners and legal experts studying material together; where foreigners can use the law first-hand to protect their condition;
-a place for self-help;
-a meeting place for foreigners: to reunite communities, to express their various cultures, where (at our multimedia center) it is possible to read books or watch films in their native tongue.
CIAC adheres to direct relations with Ics and Asgi.
In 2001, the Turkish-Neapolitan law allowed municipalities to obtain funding for projects aimed at integrating foreigners. In response, CIAC proposed two projects:
-Immigration asylum and citizenship, in collaboration with seven municipalities in the Parma region. The goal of respecting the rights of foreigners calls for the widespread distribution of legal skills and materials between municipal employees and the opening (from scratch) of an information desk oriented towards foreigners in each of the 7 districts, directly managed with the support and consult of CIAC lawyers for more complex cases;
-Hospitality for asylum applicants and refugees in need, with the commune of Sala Baganza.
OUR HELP DESKS
The long sought after involvement of municipalities has achieved success thanks to their availability and willingness, their programmatic sharing, and to the push given by the provincial administration within the scope of the local level for the integration of foreigners. In 2003, the collaboration with CIAC, on the topic of legal support for foreigners, expanded to 23 districts in Parma, with 23 open help desks. This project has produced many services and a network of open tutoring help desks.
To protect the rights of foreigners is also to protect the rights of asylum seekers. In the face of the grave inadequacies of Italy in this regard, protecting the rights of asylum seekers means taking on a laden majority of utmost importance, in order to facilitate acceptance and a way to respond to material needs. For years, CIAC, with the Province of Parma, the Municipalities, and Amnesty International, has carried out an intense battle to raise awareness to the rights of asylum seekers within the entire territory: the results can be seen first in the Sala Baganza project, where the Ausl already participates brilliantly and has succeeded by becoming part of the European Network for the support and rehabilitation of victims of torture, and with the invovement of a growing number of communities committed to the acceptance and integration of asylum seekers/refugees/protection holders, and the rehabilitation of victims of torture.
ACCEPTANCE THROUGH SPRAR
In 2003, CIAC, with 26 municipalities of Parma, led by Fidenza, presented the Land of asylum project to Anci and won first place on the national level among other approved projects.
In 2005 CIAC, the Province of Parma, Districts of Langhirano, Tizzano Sala Baganza, and Fidenza worked alongside the Emilia Romagna region for the implementation of a regional-level intervention on asylum: this gave birth to a project significantly known as Emilia Romagna, land of asylum.
If the goal reached with the involvement of local entities seems like a dream in respect to the initial acceptance, auto-financing, and promotion of a volunteer association, it is nevertheless known that the goal we are reaching for is already a small thing, but that much remains left to do before the rights of asylum seekers in Italy are adequately applied and guarantee both dignity and opportunity to each and every person.
Over the following years, CIAC’s commitment within the SPRAR system and in favor of complete and widespread acceptance has continued. The Land of asylum project continues to be confirmed year after year, with the rhythm of consecutive announcements. From 2014 onward, CIAC has been awarded - first place in the SPRAR ranking on a national level - and was even the recipient for a project in Parma called “A City for asylum seekers”, working to increase not only the number of locations but also territorial roots across the majority of the province. As a result of the expansion that occurred in 2017, the project also includes the entities involved in the coordination of “The development of acceptance”.
OUR OTHER PROJECTS
Since 2009, CIAC has worked hard to establish a network with other groups at a national level in some initial financial projects throughout the European Fund for Refugees (EFR) and the European Fund for Integration (EFI). Pioneering experience and research changed the direction of the scope of interest for the project “Distanced from violence” which brings evidence to the public sphere pertaining to the theme of victims of torture and integrated management: from that is born not long after, one of the first Social-Health Interdisciplinary Coordination in Italy which is still active, between CIAC and AUSL, that made it possible - while expanding its scope every year - to take on more complex cases of social health (disabilities, mentale illnesses, victims of torture, victims of violence, victims of human trafficing, minors in the process of finding their birth certificates) according to daily programming and ensuring synergy between project SPRAR and territorial services.
Numerous other financial projects by means of European and national funds have allowed services to be innovated in the years to come, as well as the consolidation of pre-existing services. Of these, examples are “For an acceptance and relationship of cross-cultural help: guidelines for an integrated acceptance” (2010), “Salutare/Greeting” (2011), “RE-START UP” to support entrepreneurship among vulnerable refugees (2012), “Interconnections. The paths to prevention, mediation, and promotion of communities in Parma" (2014), “Binding: the threads of autonomy” (2014), “Ancora” (2017), “Ancora 2.0” (2020), “Becomer-the well-being of a community” (2020), “PUZZLE- Networking actions for a welcoming community” (2020), just to name some of the main programs financed by European funds. A collaboration that took place with the Asylum migration and integration fund (FAMI) with relevant public institutions such as the bureaucratic and police headquarters of Parma is also noteworthy.
Other sources of funding (for example achieved through participation in groups such as the Cariparma Foundation, 8 per mile or other public and private loans) have made consolidating the system of protection, acceptance, and integration in the Parma region and province possible: for a prime example, see “Networks: protection of refugees not included in SPRAR” (2012), “New world” (2017), “Interface” (2018), “The keys in our hand” (2019), “COMMUNITY WELLFARE Welcoming territories for inclusive development” (2019), “SAFE! Speak-up Against Female Exclusion - New tools for the prevention of gender-based discrimination and violence and undertaking an integrated culture” 2019, “A welcoming community: participation, creativity, sustainability for the integration of migrants at risk of exclusion” (2020).
This intense activity did not occur in isolation, but rather represented an opportunity for continuous discussion and elaboration at both the national and local levels. It is no coincidence that CIAC is one of the founders and main leaders of "EuropAsilo", a national network for the right of asylum that since 2013 has united some of the most active subjects in widespread hospitality, to promote its approach through multilevel training and advocacy actions. At the local level, the same intent to strengthen dialogue and to build a cohesive ethical network, with a strong ethical-value sharing and with the rejection of a speculative and purely managerial perspective of hospitality, is found in the Coordination of "The civilization of hospitality" (of which CIAC is the coordinating body) which includes the Community of Betania, Caritas, Di mano in mano, Il Pozzo di Sicar, il Centro Aiuto Alla Vita, and l’istituto del Buon Pastore, and that since 2017 participates with CIAC in services offered by the SPRAR project “A city for asylum”.
In addition to the intense networking with other third sector subjects, CIAC’s attention - consistent with its origins - has always also been aimed at raising awareness and involving the wider citizens. Even more so when it became increasingly evident that racism and discriminatory or at least distrustful behaviors were also growing in Parma and its province, attitudes fostered by the climate of hatred and media overexposure to which the migratory phenomenon has been subjected in recent years. The generalized reception and the generalized presence throughout the territory - also through the network of almost thirty "Immigration Asylum and Citizenship" counters - were not sufficient to represent a stable and recognizable garrison, and above all to systematically feed that intercultural contact between refugees and local communities that is so central in the integration paths of migrants, but also in reducing the fears and closures of the "old" citizens.
For this reason, as of 2015, a particular investment was made to imagine forms of hospitality and relationships that put at the center the opportunity to create stable and warm ties between natives and migrants, thus helping to expand and diversify social networks and to offer them opportunities to "open their eyes to the world". In 2015, the national experimentation in the SPRAR field "Refugees in the family" was born, through which Italian families can host a refugee for a defined period, helping them in their insertion path and above all offering them the warmth of a home and its relationships. The following year - in 2016 - intercultural co-housing between young Italians and young refugees was created. In 2017 we go beyond the dimension of coexistence and cohabitation by proposing the figure of the territorial tutor for integration, an individual or an association that supports a refugee along their path, becoming a warm and friendly point of reference.
THE FIGHT AGAINST THE DECREES
This wealth of relationships has not proved particularly effective only for the refugees directly affected, but also for CIAC itself, which has received encouragement and energy from a network of strongly mobilized and sensitized contacts, which have often been activated not only for the refugee with whom they had come into contact more directly but also in a more transversal way for the right of asylum, solidarity, and hospitality. This became even more evident in late 2018, when a sudden legal change at the national level effectively undermined the right of asylum and the reception system: through the immigration and security decrees and then the law 132, the abrogation of the humanitarian protection has dramatically increased the number of asylum seekers destined to become irregular and excluded from any form of reception and protection. Even more so since the new law also intervened effectively dismantling the SPRAR - since then called SIPROIMI - excluding asylum seekers and anyone who was not a holder of international protection.
CIAC, with its networks and with the support of many citizens, was immediately at the forefront in demanding radical reform and the restoration (at least) of humanitarian protection and the existence of a single reception system: for example, the national call for action day "L’asilo rEsiste" which already on December 15th, 2018 brought hundreds of operators and activists to Parma. But in addition to criticism and protest, CIAC also immediately took action on the proposal front, working on identifying possible solutions, at least at the local level.
At the end of December 2019, the "Wonderful World" house was inaugurated, a welcome community to give assistance to the excluded but also to offer them more than 60 volunteers who spontaneously activated the opportunity of a daily confrontation with migrants and with CIAC, with a look at the community response to the exclusion factors - legal but also social - of which the refugees received were victims. The experience - which in 2020 went through the pandemic crisis without interrupting reception and activities that have nevertheless changed to meet health security needs - is also developing in the sense of solidarity tourism, with the opening of a holiday home, and the creation of a House of Peace, towards which to converge the multiple urban realities and not only that they have always recognized the red thread that connects war, violence, the violation of human rights in many parts of the world with the dynamics of exclusion, discrimination, and hatred that rage in Italy. And not only towards migrants and refugees.