The project is funded under the European Horizon 2020 program for research and innovation and is coordinated by the Collegio Carlo Alberto – Center for Research and Higher Education and FIERI Whole-COMM is involved in the integration of migrants in small and medium-sized municipalities and rural areas, involving approximately 40 local communities in 8 member states (Austria, Belgium, germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Spain and Poland) and two other countries (Turkey and Canada).
In recent years, the European Union has welcomed an unprecedented number of migrants and asylum seekers who have arrived outside of scheduled flows. This has led to an increasing presence of immigrants in small and medium-sized cities and rural areas, often ill-prepared for this change. Today, the challenges of integration appear even more significantOn one hand, COVID-19 is testing essential economic sectors with a high proportion of migrant workers, on the other hand, small and medium-sized cities and rural areas are once again at the forefront of refugee reception, following the arrival of thousands of Ukrainians in all EU member states.
The waythese communities respond to these challenges abd the settlement of migrants in their territory is crucial for the futire of immigrant integration in Europe.
The project employs an innovative whole-of-community research approach, drawing on the concept of whole-of-society promoted by the United Nations Compacts. This method conceives the integration of migrants and natives as a community-making process influenced by interactions among various actors, including political representatives, civil society, and foreign residents, and its outcome is not predetermined. This community-making process can lead to more cohesive and open societies, but it can also result in closed and fragmented communities.
To study the mechanisms that influence the complex relationship between integration policies and the cohesion of local communities, the project adopts a comparative approach across countries (8 EU and 2 non-EU countries), and within local contexts (49 localities). The research is conducted using various methods, both qualitative and quantitative, including a comprehensive survey on attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers in small communities and an analysis of the impact of local policies on social cohesion and immigrant integration trajectories.
By focusing on small and medium-sized towns and rural areas, Whole COMM helps fill a significant gap in existing research and policy debates,which have predominantly centered on larger cities.
- Scientific objectives: to deepen empirical knowledge and advance theoretical thinking on how policies can influence the integration pathways of migrants in small and medium-sized communities.
- Political-social intervention goal: to drive political debates and trigger innovation within SMEs, aiming to build more cohesive and resilient communities capable of proactively embracing change and extracting the maximum potential from each individual and collectively from everyone
Whole-COMM aims to provide a concrete contribution to the formulation of innovative and effective policies. To achieve this, it aims to engage stakeholders at all levels – European, national, and local – through two primary methods: Community-Policy LABs, designed as forums for discussion and alignment between researchers and public decision-makers, and the co-creation of a set of actions and policy guidelines by a trans-local working group.
Piedmont is a region with a long tradition of settling migrants from Southern Italy (1960-1970) and, more recently, from other EU and non-EU countries. In 2014, asylum seekers and international protection holders in reception centers accounted for 5% (3,125 individuals) of the total, while by the end of 2020, the same figure had risen to 9% (7,275 individuals). The newly arrived migrants have been accommodated throughout the region in various types of locations, including mountainous and rural areas as well as medium-sized cities, with a substantial percentage of foreign residents in small towns. It’s important to note that Piedmont is the region with the highest number of small towns in Italy (1,047, which represents 18.96% of the total).
In 2014, Sicily was one of the top three regions in Italy for the number of asylum applications, hosting 22% (14,769) of asylum seekers and international protection holders. By the end of 2020, Sicily remained one of the regions with the highest number of asylum seekers and international protection holders hosted in reception facilities, accounting for 8.1% (6,480 individuals) of the total. Over the past decade, the presence of foreign residents has significantly increased in inland areas, specifically in municipalities facing depopulation and having limited access to basic public services.
Comparisons with the territories
As of late September 2022, some Neighborhood Committees’ members and citizens gathered as part of the European research project “Whole-COMM” to discuss how migrations, especially those following 2014, have altered the city, its neighborhoods, and its districts. Below, we report some of the key points that emerged:
Reagarding the project FIERI has also contributed with the following products:
- Establishing the Link between Migration and Development in Medium and Small Municipalities. Five Ideas to Maximize the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) (and for a Better Reception of Refugees). Joint declaration of the Horizon2020 project Welcoming Spaces and Whole-COMM:
- The Solitude of Smaller Municipalities in Facing the Challenges of Refugee Post-Settlement The Lack of Strategies for Refugee Integration Outside Major Cities
- Country report on multilevel dynamics – Italy
- Country report on access to services – Italy
- Comparative Paper on local integration policies and multi-level policymaking interactions in SMsTRA
- Country report on social relations, individual attitudes and migrant integration experiences – Italy
All the material is available on the website: https://whole-comm.eu/
The material of the project in Italian is available here: https://whole-comm.eu/italy/