These refugees arriving in Rome from the Horn of Africa are part of a group of 51 migrants who will be hosted by Italian families | Photo: ANSA/TELENEWS
These refugees arriving in Rome from the Horn of Africa are part of a group of 51 migrants who will be hosted by Italian families | Photo: ANSA/TELENEWS

The Refugees Welcome project, which offers the possibility for families to host refugees in their personal homes, has resumed following the coronavirus lockdown in Italy. Eighty families that applied for the programme are currently being evaluated to participate.

COVID-19 has affected every aspect of life in Italy, but it hasn't stopped the country's sense of solidarity. Now that the lockdown situation is over, the Refugees Welcome Italia program, which offers the chance for families to host refugees in their own homes, has resumed. Eighty families across Italy have applied to the program and are currently being evaluated for participating in this initiative. 

The evaluation process began a few weeks ago, and will match the families who applied for the program with refugees and migrants searching for a home.

Relaunch despite corona fears

Fabiana Musicco, president of Refugees Welcome Italia, said the reason why the program resumed was to explore "if there were people who were willing to host once the quarantine was over, while respecting all the necessary procedures."

She stressed that with the global pandemic still continuing, migrants and refugees could easily find themselves "in a situation in which they are freshly marginalized, which could compromize the initial progress they have made to integrate in our country, and above all, could put their health at risk."

Musicco's comments came just ahead of World Refugee Day, which takes place on June 20. 

Bridging generations

Some people in Italy have already begun hosting a refugee, such Luciana: The 90-year-old former partisan hosts 22-year-old student Abdelaziz, who came to Italy from The Gambia.

"I've been hosting Aziz in my home since the end of May," Luciana told the ANSA news agency. "The quarantine made me realize that even more than the importance of having a home as a physical space, there's also the need for a home as an emotional space. I wasn't afraid to have this experience. 

"I'm used to being with young people, because for more than 20 years I've been going to schools to tell about my experience as a partisan. I hope that in this home Aziz feels free, just as I am free," Luciana said. 

Abdelaziz said he was a bit fearful at first, "because I thought it wouldn't be easy living with Italians," he said. "Then I met Luciana, and I knew we would get along."

'Time to do something concrete'

In Mola di Bari, Ada and Brice have been living together for just a few days now. Ada, who teaches Italian at a middle school, is hosting Brice, a 28-year-old refugee from Cameroon. Brice has been living in Italy since 2017 and says he is a "tailor by trade, and a hairstylist as a hobby." 

In his country of origin, Brice had his own design studio. He explains that since he came to Italy, he's done a bit of everything, working wherever he could find a job while also attending courses in tailoring as well as gardening. 

Ada explains that her motivation for partaking in the program was that at some point she realized it was "time to stop getting angry about the news" she was reading in the newspapers: "I decided that I wanted to do something concrete, and I thought I would be able to host someone. And the pandemic even strengthened this idea. It made me understand how important it is for us to help one another," she said. 

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