Asylum Seekers in Small Villages: Spatial Proximity and Integration in Italian and French Villages
What happens when asylum seekers from African or Middle Eastern countries are resettled by authorities in small European villages? When they arrive, are they welcomed, or on the contrary, rejected by villagers? Generally speaking, overseas migrants usually wish to be resettled in large European cities. As for European villagers, they tend to form communities closed on themselves, so one might expect a rather cold reception. However, fieldwork in Italian and French villages where asylum-seeking migrants were resettled shows that this is not necessarily the case. Having observed resettlement experiences in the Italian region of Molise and the French region of Alsace, we discovered that, wherever migrants are hosted within the confines of a village, villagers get frequent opportunities to meet them, learn to communicate with them, and spontaneously offer help, especially to children, women, and whole families. The lack of a common language does not prevent day-to-day iwnteractions or development of interpersonal relations. Children go to school and are keen to learn the host society’s language; adult migrants receiving help want to reciprocate by working for free, thus allowing them to quickly learn European ways and skills. If most asylum seekers eventually leave for larger cities, the months spent in a village prove to be a useful step preparing them for further resettlement.
Copyright (c) 2022 Stefania Adriana Bevilacqua, Daniel Bertaux
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