The cover of the UNICEF-IOM-UNHCR guide for Italian workers helping migrant and refugee victims of gender violence | Credit: UNICEF website
The cover of the UNICEF-IOM-UNHCR guide for Italian workers helping migrant and refugee victims of gender violence | Credit: UNICEF website

The agencies IOM, UNHCR, and UNICEF in Italy have launched a guide for front-line workers who provide support to migrant and refugee survivors of gender violence. The guide is adapted to the Italian migratory context.

The International Organization for Migrants (IOM), the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR), and the UN Children's Fund (UNHCR) on Friday (November 6) launched a guide in Italy for workers on the front lines providing support to survivors of gender violence.

"The guide was adapted to the Italian migratory context from a global resource, and it is particularly relevant in this time in which the COVID-19 pandemic is further exacerbating pre-existing vulnerabilities, including those of women and children and adolescent migrants and refugees," the organizations said in a statement.

Difficulty in access to protection

In Italy, following the pandemic, the number of calls received by the national anti-violence and stalking hotline 1522 has increased 119% compared to the same period last year.

This figure is in line with global trends that highlight an intensification of violence connected to the introduction of containment measures that limited movement and increased potential isolation.

The health measure also made access to protection systems more difficult for migrant and refugee women and girls, also due to cultural and linguistic barriers.

The guide, which was presented on Friday by the three organizations in an online meeting with representatives from the Italian Department for Equal Opportunities and the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration, is a handbook of tools for those who work with victims of violence in providing initial support.

Risks aggravated by pandemic

"Gender violence is one of the most widespread forms of violence in the world and it involves individuals, families, and entire communities, and is the result of complex dynamics," said Laurence Hart, director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean.

"Practical experience has taught us a lot about the real challenges in the field in terms of implementing policies aimed at facing gender violence. One of these challenges is dedicating specific attention to women migrant workers who, if they do not have a regular work contract, are more exposed to exploitation, trafficking, and slavery," Hart said.

Chiara Cardoletti, UNHCR representative for Italy, the Holy See, and San Marino, said: "We know that the majority of people under the UNHCR mandate who arrive in Italy are survivors of sexual and gender violence and that many continue to be exposed to the risk of undergoing violence here as well.

"This risk has been aggravated by the pandemic, and that's why we are insisting on the importance of guaranteeing timely access to adequate services, following the modalities presented in this guide," Cardoletti said.

Anna Riatti, UNICEF coordinator for the migrant and refugee children and adolescents programme in Italy, said: "From the testimonies we hear, often it is evident that there is a connection between migration and violence, a problem aggravated by the recent pandemic."

 

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