By Adriano Valentini, Italian Red Cross

30 refugees and asylum seekers participate in a programme that enables them to share knowledge and experience about life in Italy with new arrivals. During the sessions, they study the legal statuses of migrants and refugees, their rights and responsibilities and ways to access services in different regions of Italy.

“We get to know the country and we can integrate faster into the Italian society. We will be able to guide the new arrivals at the reception centre, and this gives us strength and hope,” says Patrick (38) from Cameroon.

“When I arrived in Italy six months ago, I was disoriented and confused. Now I feel I’ve gone a long way on the road to integration, and I’m happy to share my story with brothers and sisters. I want to teach them a lot of things,” says Carrige (20) from Nigeria.

“Taking part in this project makes me realize how many people ignore their rights and responsibilities when they come to Italy. Just like me at the beginning, they don’t know their way around. This is an opportunity for me to help them,” he adds.

More than 300 migrants and asylum seekers will be involved in this programme, to be implemented at the Italian Red Cross reception centres in Lecce, Friuli and Alto Adige. The project is called AVAIL (Amplifying the Voices of Asylum seekers and refugees for Integration and Life skills) and is part of a broader initiative involving Red Cross societies in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Latvia, supported by the European Union and the IFRC.

The AVAIL project also foresees the setup of a football team composed of refugees and asylum seekers from the Italian Red Cross reception centre in Bresso and the launch of a web radio where stories of refugees and members or the host community will be shared.