Mar 18, 2022

The Network of Migrants Desk and the Career Guidance for Refugees in Brescia

Since 2008, the municipality of Brescia works with a network of voluntary associations to provide comprehensive support to migrants in the city. The so-called Network of Migrants Desks and the career guidance for refugees delivered by ADL Zavidovici has been identified as one of the best practices of the EPIC project which will guide other partners cities to strengthen their integration services.

  • Click here to access the video summary of the practice and here the testonial of migrants who have benefited from the services

Brescia is an Italian city in the province of Lombardy that holds the status as one of the engines of the national economy. Because of a large demand for labour force in various industries, Brescia has been increasingly affected by a significant rise of the migrant population. Today the city has one of the largest communities of foreign citizens, which represents 19% of the city’s 200 000 inhabitants. Brescia hosts migrants from over 150 countries. Many of them have gained legal resident status and a few thousand of people have successfully obtained Italian citizenship. In this regard, Brescia acts as one of the best-integrated cities in Italy. Having a large migrant population is an opportunity for the city, but also a challenge. It is therefore important to provide the tools and active services to facilitate the integration of its new citizens.

Mayor of Brescia – Emilio Del Bono – points out that over the course of 30 years, Brescia has managed to turn its migrant situation from emergency to constructive inclusion. “It has been a very complex and difficult process, but thanks to the collaboration with volunteer groups, and the involvement of many professional operators, we have succeeded.” 

In 2008, the Municipality of Brescia established the so-called Network of Migrant Desks. This is a network of voluntary territorial associations that work closely with migrant groups helping them to obtain legal status in the country, providing supportive measures and services for integration, as well as facilitating effective communication and dialogue between the stakeholders, i.e. the Municipality, police and the Prefecture, supporting civil society associations, and the migrant people themselves. The network consists of six voluntary associations:  Offices for Foreigners of ACLI, CGIL, CISL, MCL, UIL, and the Centre of Migrants. The Network meets regularly to discuss formal practices of immigration in order to find solutions and tackle the problems together.

One of the outstanding results of the Network has been to draw up a document called Vademecum explaining the process and paperwork necessary for applying for the residence permit. Ilaria Saurgnani – Head of Migration and Inclusion Service in the Municipality of Brescia explains: “There are many types of residence permits: permits for self-employment, subordinate employment, medical treatment, family, study. It is not easy to understand which documents are needed for different types of permits, and regulatory terms sometimes leave room for interpretation. For this reason, drawing up a document and discussing it with the police department has allowed the migrants to submit complete and correct applications. It has also speeded up the evaluation of the application process and thereby enabled the applicant to begin their life in Italy with employment or studies. Brescia, I believe, is the only city that has this kind of network”. 

The Network of Migrant Desks does not only provide help in administrative procedures but also acts as a friendly advocator with various services and a supportive network where the migrant is the beneficiary.

Driss Enniya – Head of CGIL Office for Foreigners: “I have never considered this as a service that is merely aimed at renewing residence permits. It is important to make them feel they are citizens too. Having the feeling of being heard for them is fundamental. Solutions are often found while listening to their problems.”

Astou – a Senegalese woman who immigrated to Italy as an illegal immigrant twenty years ago. Today she is today working as Auxiliary Care Worker and Health Operator in San Giuseppe’s care facility in Brescia. “My experience in Italy was very difficult at first. I could not work or do anything because I did not have any documents. I then met Driss and he explained everything to me. Whatever I do, I always talk to Driss. He has encouraged me not to stand still or wait. It is very important to have these services available because without them you cannot do anything. People like me need them”.

For many years, the Association ADL Zavidovici has been working in the field of career guidance and job placement services for migrants. The programme consists of coaching and a series of interviews that help the person to prepare for real-life job interviews. The overall aim of the services is to make the migrant people autonomous and capable to act independently in the job market. 

Glory, a girl from Nigeria who arrived in Italy in 2017 and lived on the streets, was helped by the Association ADL Zavidovici. She successfully managed to escape the street life, completed training and internship, and began working as a housekeeper in a hotel. Similarly, Youry, a young man from Mali found a job as an apprentice in an agricultural farm, with the help of ADL.

“Our way of working is to always put a focus on the individual ”, says Maddalena Alberti – Director of Association ADL Zavidoivici. “People come to us with their peculiarities and we do our best to make sure their needs are considered. There are several stakeholders involved in the integration, such as the Municipality, the voluntary organisations, as well as the local community; so that the person feels he/she is at the centre of many networks all working for the goal of his/her integration”. 

The Network of Migrants Desks is aware of the idea that its work is like an act of courage, supporting a municipality that has decided to welcome asylum seekers and refugees. This work can be done thanks to various sources of funding such as the System of Accommodation and Integration, the Ministry of Interior, ANCI, but also grants and funds available through the programmes of the European Union, like AMIF – Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. 

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