How to help refugees if you live in Italy

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A boy arrives in Italy after being rescued in the Mediterranean. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP
13:01 CEST+02:00
Thousands of people from Syria, Eritrea and elsewhere are still arriving every month on the country's shores. There are lots of ways you can help these refugees in their hour of need - here are some ideas from The Local.

Over 50,000 people arrived in Italy in the first half of the year - and while much of the world's focus has shifted to Greece, they keep coming. Many who arrive are traumatized - they may have lost loved ones and risked their own lives while crossing the Mediterranean. Many ordinary Italians have been quick to help - and you can contribute too. Here's how.

1. Donate money

One of the quickest ways to help is to get online and donate money. There are a host of organizations operating in Italy, so we’ve picked out just a few.

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has an Italy-specific page or a general English-language donation website.

There’s also Save the Children, which works with children as soon as they step on shore and in centres across Italy. They also have both a global and national donation page. Don’t miss Italy’s version of the Red Cross, the Croce Rossa.

The International Organization for Migration also has staff helping refugees in Italy.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF, Medici Senza Frontiere in Italian) has medical teams in Italy. They are also operating their own rescue ships and working alongside another organization, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), to help rescue people at sea.

2. Give gifts

Clothes, shoes, shampoo, tents and books are just some of the items people have donated to refugees. To find out where to donate take a look at your local church group, as religious organizations often run centres for refugees.

In Rome there’s the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center (JNRC) and the Centro Astalli, part of the Jesuit Refugee Service, amongst others. Outside of the Italian capital, Caritas is another Catholic charity with centres across the country. Or just contact your local religious leader to find out if there are any schemes in your area.

3. Give your time

A number of the organizations listed above accept volunteers. While some tasks can be done by just about anyone, such as handing out breakfast at a refugee centre, think hard about whether you have any particular skills which could be valuable.

Refugees not only need sustenance, but are also often in need of translators to help them communicate and councillors to help them overcome trauma.

Think long-term and consider whether you have experience in an area which could help refugees set up life in Italy, such as teaching a trade which could help someone get a job.

4. Take care of a child

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By 20th July this year, 7,439 unaccompanied minors had arrived in Italy by sea during 2015. Their young age makes children even more vulnerable than adults who have made the journey.

While Save the Children is the most well-known organization focussed on helping underage arrivals, Sicilian group AccoglieRete can help arrange for you to become a legal guardian to a child in need. You could also consider becoming a foster parent.

5. Talk to people in power

If you want Italy to continue to save lives at sea and support refugees arriving in the country, tell the government. You can contact your local MP through the government’s own website, or get in touch with Italy’s political representatives at the EU.

If you’re a citizen of another EU country which you believe should be supporting Italy, you can also contact your own government directly. 

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