Building Bridges: Fostering Integration and Political Engagement in Empoli (Italy) – EMVI Study Visit

The focus of the three-day event in Empoli was on issues of participation and inclusion of foreign citizens in communities. ‘ The aim is to choose the best methods to practice true integration that is a right and a duty for all. ’ said Mayor Brenda Barnini. The project’s focus on the political participation of migrants and their descendants is crucial for the well-being of modern societies and the stability of the economy. As migration is still closely linked to discrimination, one of the main objectives is to raise the awareness of host societies on the importance of inclusion and political participation of all by enabling and enhancing the participation of migrants in the design and implementation of policies that directly affect them.

The first day was held in the Council Chamber of the town hall, Via Giuseppe del Papa 41, and was attended by the Mayor of the Municipality of Empoli, Councillor for Social Policies Valentina Torrini, Council President Alessio Mantellassi and representatives of the organisations involved in the EMVI project. Among the guests, Franco Doni was the representative of the Regional Economic Planning Institute Tuscany (IRPET) and Celia Pariona, a former member of the Empoli Council of Foreigners. The regulation for the establishment of the Migrant Advisory Board (MAB) was approved in February 2004, while in 2008, the MAB changed into the Council of Foreigners, as stated in Articles 20-31 of the municipal statute. Today the Council has not yet established due to objective difficulties in its operativity. In the new administrative term, Mayor Bernini’s aim is to open a dialogue and reflection around three questions that are central to the debate: Is it possible to have a Council of Foreigners in Empoli? How should the Council be structured? How can a possible Council match with the new needs of foreign citizens? ‘ It is a priority for the establishment of a new Council to understand how to reorganise this body, paying particular attention to the new needs/requirements of migrant communities’ said Alessio Mantellassi, Chairman of the city council.

Pietre D’Inciampo: a tour of democracy and remembrance

The second part of the day was dedicated to a guided tour of the city’s historical sites and the projects it has promoted over the years. In particular  ‘Investire in democrazia’ (Investing in democracy) is a project promoted by the Municipality of Empoli, with the involvement of the city’s primary and secondary schools and many associations: launched in 1997, it continues to be a place for dialogue on fundamental themes and values such as Memory, Legality, Constitution and Environment. Also part of this specific training course is the remembrance of those who were deported from the city of Empoli during World War II. This is how eight deportees are remembered in Empoli, with the laying of ‘Pietre D’Inciampo’. ‘Because it does not matter if they were not from Empoli, but here, in this city, they were brutally arrested and taken to their death’.

Overview of the political participation of foreign citizens in Empoli:

On 20th April, the Study Visit focused on the topic of migrants’ political participation with representatives of local associations and an overview on political participation in Tuscany. On this day, the voices of local associations contributed to a detailed understanding of the migration phenomenon in the city, thus enabling an exchange of views on the issue of Italian citizenship and the difficulties foreign citizens still face in the process of socio-political and economic integration. Chiara Dinucci, representative of the Sportello Donyasso, Jose Mar, representative of the Oxfam association, Senka Majda, representative of the Arturo association, and finally Alessia GIorgetti, representative of the Pietra D’Angolo association, spoke on these topics.

EMVI partner meeting:

In addition to the study visit, the stay in Empoli was also an opportunity for an internal exchange between the EMVI project partners to discuss upcoming activities.

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