Better integration for migrants in Sicily
The EU-funded Al Khantara project was set up to improve the integration of migrants in Sicily through research, training and communication. These actions led to the formulation of proposals aimed at developing a regional integration policy.
" Al Khantara has resulted in the acquisition of knowledge and field experience, based on which, given the project’s structure, it was possible to make a range of specific proposals. These are detailed in the 2011 volume “Integration of Immigrants in the Sicilian Region”, which reports on project developments and results of pilot research, and concludes with points for the drafting of a white paper laying down an active regional policy for the integration of immigrants. "
Research, supported by cultural mediators, was carried out through focus groups, desk research and 264 interviews with the aim of improving understanding of the phenomenon of immigration and migrants’ needs.
The results were used to develop training and support intended primarily, but not exclusively, for migrants, and provided mainly through three multi-purpose centres set up under the project. The knowledge and experience acquired from the work fed into policy formulation.
A lack of reliable information
A significant challenge was the difficulty in obtaining reliable information on immigration, which is in part clandestine and irregular and gives rise to prejudice and fear. The project set out to gain an understanding of integration activities, particularly the role of public institutions, in order to identify obstacles and shortcomings, highlight areas for action and to put forward proposals.
Interviews were conducted with migrants, public-sector bodies (job centres, police, local authorities and labour inspectorates) and private-sector representatives (reception centres, lawyers and workers’ and employers’ associations). Questions covered working and housing conditions, contact with public administration, healthcare, education and the attitude of local people.
Al Khantara identified Cefalù, Mazara del Vallo, Palermo, Termini Imerese and Trapani as places where migration had had the greatest impact, setting up multi-purpose centres in Mazara del Vallo, Palermo and Termini Imerese. These centres offered legal and tax consultancy, work-related guidance, entrepreneurship training and Italian language courses for immigrants, and training for integration professionals.
Communications on integrating foreign citizens into the job market was targeted at local authorities, police forces, NGOs, entrepreneurial associations and trade unions. A website was created providing resources for foreign entrepreneurs and an online platform set up for reporting abuse, recounting personal experiences and sharing opinions.
A regional integration policy
As many as 20 000 people are thought to have come across the activities, while 30 migrant entrepreneurs took part in training. At least 75 % of the training hours offered were taken up.
Levels of improvement in understanding migration and integration were rated as medium to high, as were the numbers of people targeted by the awareness-raising. Al Khantara also helped to enhance working relationships between the authorities involved in managing integration, leading to the signature of a memorandum of understanding between the various authorities.
Based on the experience gained, proposals were made in a report on the project with a view to drawing up a regional migrant integration policy. Details of various legislative and organisational actions were developed on issues such as employment centres, provincial administration, labour inspectorates, mediation, training, education, healthcare, minors and awareness-raising in the host community.
Total investment and EU funding
Total investment for the project “Al Khantara...secure integration” is EUR 1 379 550, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 034 662 through the “Security for development” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.