Cross-fitting problems and solutions for accepting asylum seekers in small communities

By Andreas Formiconi

Presently, the strategy for distributing the high fluxes of immigrants in Italy consists in scattering them throughout the territory as much as possible. Consequently, the problem of integrating groups of immigrants representing a non négligeable fraction of local populations is a  very common one. The creation of new centers for hosting asylum seekers is entirely under the control of the Ministry of the Interior. The local communities have no official role in the process and their reaction to the setting up of new centers is mostly adverse.

We are experiencing this situation in Poggio alla Croce, a small village with 200 residents in the neighborhood of Florence, where an asylum seekers center has been settled in 2017. A group of citizens since last April tried to face the incoming problems by setting up a set of activities:

* Meet regularly to share ideas and discuss problems

* Realizing interviews with operators and experts commited in neighboring similar realities

* Set up a blog for documenting in a sustained way the whole experience

* Organise social activities aimed at both local people as well as immigrants by means of

* an afterschool support for Italian, English, French, technology and other disciplines

* the recycling of old  computers by refurbishing them with the lightweight free Linux distribution Lubuntu

* recycling of other materials such as gym tools

The driving idea that emerged by developing these activities is that of cross-fitting problems and solutions, in the sense that what it is seen as a problem in a context may turn out to provide a solution in a quite different one. Thus, both problems may be solved to some extent, just by coupling them together. In our case, the idea is reified by coupling the typical surplus, in terms of resources and tools, characterizing our communities and the needs of immigrants, that don’t have  nothing and don’t have almost any connection with anything in our country. For instance, the support for afterschool activities may be given by retired local inhabitants, according to their competences. Old hardware may be gathered from families having the problem of disposing it. Immigrants as well as local people may benefit if such kind of surplus are made available.

Probably, a crucial aspect consists in conceiving such services to both the local and the immigrants communities, hoping to lay the seeds for a true integration.

The blog address is [1]