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22 February 2018

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Omar, in the red fleece and Moussa with the shovel, build igloos in San Simone di Valleve, Italy. (Luca Bruno/Associated Press)

Migrants Reshaping and Redefining Italian Communities

Northern Italy  – Home is hard to define – with more people on the move than ever before, migration is adding extra layers of meaning - and of sweaters, probably - to the concept.

For Omar Kanteh, a Gambian migrant living in Italy, the subtropical environment he grew up in has been replaced by one in which living spaces can be constructed from blocks of snow.

Kanteh’s base is San Simone, a place in northern Italy once known for its bustling ski slopes. As reported by Charlene Pele for the Washington Post, when financial troubles brought the winter sports to a halt, a group of 80 migrants and asylum seekers took up residence in the alpine village’s local hotel.

David Midali, a local restaurateur, saw an opportunity to bring tourism back to San Simone – he constructed a series of igloos for rent. Many of the village’s new residents took up the challenge with him.

The tactic paid off and reservations to stay in the igloos rolled in, as did the hordes of curious tourists who wanted to take pictures next to the icy habitats. The project provided an opportunity to boost local commerce, while fostering new bonds between migrants and members of the host community.

“It’s not about me being from Africa and [Midali] from Europe,” Kanteh told the Post. “We are all from one race.”

Kanteh’s reality is removed both physically and culturally from what he knew in Gambia, but his presence in San Simone and the arrival of other migrants in Italy are producing ripple effects throughout the country.

This is being felt acutely further afield in Castellina in Chianti, where the migrant population is increasing while many of the village’s natives move out, in search of opportunity in bigger cities.

Writing for the New York Times, Gaia Pianigiani noted that the issue of migration looms large as Italians prepare to head to the polls next month.

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Karen: "Moving was easier than I thought because we had the support of many people who also migrated to this town."

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Migration in the News

  • Innovation Village reported about IOM’s MigApp, a secure, objective and user-friendly downloadable app which serves as a one-stop-shop platform where migrants can access current, reliable and practical information and IOM services.
  • Thomson Reuters Foundation reported that Cameroonian migrants rescued from Libya’s prisons described their anxiety about the future, in particular, finding work back home – the problem that pushed them abroad in the first place.
  • Iraqi News reported that over 3.3 million Iraqis have returned to their home regions, while nearly 2.5 million people continued to live in displacement till January 31, 2018.
  • Just Earth News reported that Iraqi civilians, driven from their homes in fear by ISIL, are now starting to make their way back home after the terrorist group has been uprooted from its bastions in the country.
  • Libyan Express reported that in January and February 2018, IOM identified 704,142 migrants in Libya through its Displacement Tracking Matrix system.
  • Dublin Digital Radio interviewed IOM’s Olivia Headon about her experiences in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
  • CBS News reported about an artist and activist who is helping Rohingya women and children in the camps deal with the lingering pain caused by the sexual violence they fled back home.
  • Xinhua reported that over 76,400 Afghan refugees have returned or been deported from neighboring Pakistan and Iran since the beginning of this year.
  • RTS reported on how IOM determines migration statistics in the Mediterranean.
  • IPS reported about the Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative, the world’s first human trafficking data portal created by IOM and Polaris.
  • Thomson Reuters Foundation reported about MigrAdvisor, a new smartphone app that aims to help migrants in Italy find hospitals, schools and police stations at the press of a button – and quickly seek help if they face abuse or exploitation.
  • Associated Press reported about the ordeal of an Eritrean migrant who was deported from Israel and sent to Uganda.
  • Human Rights Watch reported about the plight of child combatants recruited by Al-Shabab and later accused of and imprisoned for national security offenses in Somalia.

Trending on the Internet

  • The New York Times reported about how an ancient Tuscan village in Italy is being reshaped by migration.
  • A CNN investigation has revealed how money given directly by the United Nations to people displaced by conflict and famine is ending up in the hands of Africa's oldest terrorist organization.


Media Contacts

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IOM Media and Communications team here.