The sleepy village of Sant ‘Alessio in the south of Italy has been given a new lease on life thanks to its decision to take in a group of refugees. In 2014 the village welcomed 35 vulnerable migrants and families from Iraq, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, and Senegal. This was part of a project conducted by the Italian government’s SPRAR network (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees) which helps refugees get back on their feet by providing vocational training and social activities.
They encourage towns to take in refugees for this program by guaranteeing that, if they do so, they will not have any overcrowded emergency reception centres in their area. Sant ‘Alessio happily agreed to take in the immigrants in an efort to reinvigorate their village which was dying economically. Many of its basic services were on the verge of shutting down, and most of the dwindling population of 330 inhabitants were elderly – the young people had left to fnd work elsewhere. Thanks to the infux of immigrants, the village is now a bustling community whose bars, small supermarkets and pharmacies have had much needed make-overs. New jobs have been created and the village council is even able to maintain a sports feld where migrants often play against neighbouring teams. SPRAR plans to install similar projects in four nearby towns and hopes that the idea will catch on in other European countries.