Integration means becoming aware of one’s duties in the host country, but also of one’s own rights in order not to become a victim of criminal activity, trafficking or labour exploitation. For this reason, as part of the “Welcoming Bologna” project, an innovative path called “School of Legality” (“Scuola di legalità”) has been carried out, in collaboration with the Pianura Ovest socio-sanitary district of the metropolitan area of Bologna and with the active participation of the County Head of the Carabinieri. Through the initiative, those asylum seekers accepted in the CASs, managed by the cooperation Lai-momo and located in the district, have been able to see the police force in a new light, realizing that in the eyes of foreigners they are not only an element of control but also a form of protection against danger and an aid in the fulfilment of administrative and work-related tasks.
The asylum seekers were divided into two groups based on linguistic homogeneity, a group consisting mainly of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis (with Urdu and Bengali language mediation) and a group consisting of guests from different, mostly French-speaking and English-speaking African countries. Two meetings for each group were held in May with representatives from the Carabinieri and the Labour Inspectorate. They focused on the fight against undeclared and irregular work, with a strong focus on the rights and duties of workers on the one hand, and relational crimes and violence in gender relations on the other. These two topics, chosen in agreement with the police, are of great importance. This is because they tangibly touch the lives of asylum seekers, who are possible victims of exploitation and a lack of work protection, but who are not always aware of the Italian culture in relation to interpersonal relationships, respect for gender equality and the protection of minors.
Being aware of their rights and the provisions of the Italian legislative system allows asylum seekers to avoid ending up as victims of exploitation and being caught up in situations that could damage their road to inclusion. This was underlined by the County Head of the Carabinieri who argued that, if the benefits can only be seen in the long run, the contribution towards integration is already evident to everyone. The effects were positive on both sides: for the police it was a chance to gain better understating of the original environments of the guests and the potential risks to which immigrants are exposed, and for the asylum seekers it was a chance to change preconceived positions in relation to the public security forces in Italy.
The School on Legality of “Welcoming Bologna” is a pilot project that, according to the Head of the Carabinieri, should become a structural path: “Our institutional intervention in this context can be fundamental to underlining the relationship between citizens and the police force that exists in our country and to clarify the mechanisms of rights and duties of the individual “.
A particular effort, underlined the Carabinieri, should be made in the fields of family law, gender protection and labour law, without creating false expectations but by providing the fundamental elements of the differences compared to the countries of origin. Moreover, particular attention is paid to the fight against the emergence of organized crime networks of ethnic origin ready to exploit the newly immigrated, either sexually or in the work setting. What positive effects on the territory can an initiative like this have? The response given by the County Head of the Carabinieri is endearingly simple: “Not to notice the effects on the area is to consider the first positive consequence”.