Local officials and human services workers in the southern Italian region of Calabria say the Italian government's recently adopted security decree, which abolishes two years of humanitarian protection for asylum seekers, will do nothing but create greater insecurity. They say migrants not only helped re-populate empty classrooms but brought new work to locals.
Caulonia, Stignano and Riace are just some of the towns in Italy’s southern and depressed region of Calabria that had benefited from the arrival of migrants on Italian shores. But for the many who arrived here after difficult sea crossings, there are new uncertainties. A security decree recently approved by the Italian parliament has eliminated the possibility of obtaining humanitarian protection for two years and allowing migrants to stay legally on Italian soil. Some mayors have gone so far as to openly announce they were refusing to implement the decree.
Kety Belcastro, the mayor of Caulonia, an ancient town on the Ioanian coastline, says her town and others in Calabria welcomed the migrants in a spirit of solidarity and humanity. Ten years ago, she added, “we saw this also as an opportunity to help these people while, at the same time, revitalizing our centers,” she said.
Belcastro said the town physically opened its doors, its houses, to the many migrants who flee their countries because of fratricidal or religious wars, hunger and poverty. They flee in search of a better world.
The people of Calabria opened their arms to people in need, she said, insisting that integration had worked very well with many migrants marrying locals.
Rosi Caristo, a 27-year-old social worker from Stignano, said young people living here in recent years have chosen to stay because they were able to find work helping migrants and jobs that did not exist in the past. She said migrant children helped communities stay alive.
In Stignano, Caristo said, schools were going to close down. Thanks to the migrant children we were able to keep classes going. The numbers in the classrooms grew, she added, thanks to the children of migrants.
Caristo said the aim of their social programs was to help migrants become autonomous, initially assisting them with schooling or learning Italian, with housing and finding a job.
Mayor Belcastro said there has never been an issue with violence from migrants. But she is convinced that the new decree will generate greater insecurity on the territory.
She said the dismantlement of the system of humanitarian protection will no doubt increase insecurity because the people who will no longer enjoy these rights will be out on the street and this will lead to an increase in fear and insecurity of citizens.
Caristo, the social worker, said that thanks to the migrants so many windows of homes that were always closed in town were opened again. She said the migrants are a great resource for those towns. She voiced her unhappiness with the new decree and was even more pessimistic than the mayor.
Caristo said that in her opinion the situation is dramatic as she cannot see any positive side to the new laws. She added that she believed the country is destined to go backwards 20 years.