Receive and integrate asylum seekers and refugees in Italy. This is the mission of InteGREAT, a project of AIESEC Italy involving NGOs, schools, associations, local communities and university students coming from all over Europe, who actively contribute through organising workshops, leisure activities and language teaching. The project, launched this year in Italy and in Europe, involves youth, “because young people are actors of change and have not only the desire, but most of all the responsibility, as young people and global citizens, to build a support network for asylum seekers and refugees. We are aware that the future of the next generations depends on our actions”, Guiscardo Urso, President of AIESEC Italia, points out.
“InteGREAT was born in India from a conversation among delegates and presidents of AIESEC's European countries, during the Global Youthspeak Forum 2015, explains Guiscardo Urso. “We were asked what the most urgent issues in Europe were and the refugee issue emerged as the main issue. That is where the idea of InteGREAT was born, which is a volunteering programme lasting 6 weeks and that so far has involved more than 140 international volunteers and has supported 3000 refugees. There are 12 countries that take part in the project and 60 NGOs are involved. InteGREAT allows European youth to come to Italy and young Italians to go to other countries in Europe in order to work in NGOs. “The project is operational not only in Italy, bur also in Greece and Switzerland and we plan to extend it to other countries. As a matter of fact, you can create value only by continuing to act”.
AIESEC, the largest university student organisation in the world, counts 900 volunteers in Italy and 70.000 all over the world, who commit to create and promote international exchanges in order to enhance diversity and multiculturalism, integration and international cooperation. “InteGREAT's mission, besides integration, is to increase awareness on the refugee crisis, also because there is a lot if misinformation and the phenomenon is perceived in a totally negative way in Italy”, Urso explains. “There is a lot to do to manage to integrate people arriving in Italy looking for a better life. We want to show that immigration has a positive impact”.
Young people are actors of change and have the responsibility, as youth and global citizens, to build a support network for asylum seekers and refugees. We are aware that the future of later generations depends on our actions
What does Integreat deal with in practice?
We do first and second level assistance for refugees and asylum seekers, through language courses, activities for migrants' children, and we help migrants in finding jobs.
“People who arrive in various European countries are often in transit , therefore we deal with issues allowing them to discover not only the country they are in at the moment but also the other European countries where they could choose to live. Therefore we work both in a European perspective and in the perspective of the country where refugees are actually at the moment." In Italy AIESEC works with different NGOs which are part of the SPRAR network, with which they did the first partnership for the project, with the Migrantes Foundation, and with Caritas, that carries out support activities. The project was started with the launch of an event on the occasion of Expo Milan 2015 and now it is taking place in various cities and in AIESEC's local headquarters.
Volunteers engage in three different types of activities: organisation of educational and recreational activities for infants and minors, such as English language teaching, and creative project development. There are educational and integration projects for adults: workshops on Italian and European political and social climate, creative projects to promote awareness raising towards integration in Italy, as well as information technology teaching and English lessons. Finally the project foresees actions to strenghten NGOs activites, from an organisational and promotional point of view.
On the 3rd of May AIESEC Italy was awarded by Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, the prestigious European Charlemagne Youth Prize thanks to the InteGREAT project.
The prize “has the objective to reward young people involved in projects aimed at promoting understanding between people from different European countries and fostering the development of a new European awareness between new generations".
AIESEC Italy was chosen as finalist for the 2016 edition of the European Charlemagne Youth Prize together with 28 other projects, one for each Member State of the European Union.
“The fact that Integreat was chosen as finalist Italian project shows that European leaders are aware of the importance of the migration issue, and of the role young people can play in the long term to build a more inclusive and multi-cultural society”, Guiscardo Urso concludes.
All pictures are by Aiesec.