The NEAR project aims to foster social orientation of migrants in the initial period of arrival and settlement in the local communities of destination. Diaspora stakeholders are some of the actors that the project empowers to act a Community Agents for newly arrived migrants. Part of the work done by NEAR is specifically aimed at providing these actors with the right knowledge and network to convey quick, context-specific and ready-to-use information and support through thematic trainings.

With this in mind, between March and December 2021 NEAR partners developed and implemented a number of activities directly addressed to diaspora members the four target cities, Milan and Perugia (Italy), Lisbon (Portugal) and Nicosia (Cyprus). The practice developed was eventually modelled into a number of tools under the NEAR National Stakeholder Reports, a set of publications taking stock of a year-long outreach, training and engagement of diaspora stakeholders. In doing so, they aim to facilitate the transfer of experiences, tools, knowledge and practices for organizations, practitioners and other interested groups to build the capacity of and empower diaspora communities as actors in the integration of newly arrived migrants at local level.

The reports follow the steps undertaken in the project, offering practical suggestions, templates and checklists along on how to:

  • take into account diaspora communities in selecting target areas
  • reach out to and engage diaspora communities preliminarily
  • identify needs and select the right stakeholders for projects and initiatives
  • organise content for training programmes
  • use the most appropriate training methods and tools
  • engage with community agents in a sustained way
  • co-create communication campaigns and tools with community agents to best target newly arrived migrants

The report on Perugia highlights the distinctive traits and lessons learnt that characterised the NEAR implementation in Central Italy by TAMAT and that could be transferred in new integration contexts.

In order to identify the area in which to operate, TAMAT mainly analysed data on the migrant population living in the territory of the Municipality of Perugia by consulting reports drawn up by national and local authorities. The selected urban areas were mainly those with the highest number of third-country nationals, taking into consideration the number of institutions, public services, migrants associations and organisations that aim at facilitating the early integration process of newly arrived.

In mapping the diaspora associations, TAMAT decided to start from the existing data on national databases, expanding them with the relationships already established by the professional experience of TAMAT’s collaborators and stakeholders. TAMAT chose to work through the personal and professional contacts of each of the actors involved, enhancing word of mouth as a practice of involvement, as in a small to medium-sized city like Perugia social relations are still the basis for building institutional relationships between private actors. TAMAT mainly selected people who were already working on the integration of third-country nationals and whose professional skills could already cover the widest range of services. Gender issues are also taken into high consideration, trying to involve as many identities as possible. The basic aim was to set up a multidisciplinary and multicultural team that could work as an informal association of cultural mediators.

The content of the CA training programme was chosen based on the needs of the users present in the territory. CAs suggested that it would be necessary to have a specific focus on immigration policy, healthcare (with a specific focus con women) and main public and private reception services for new arrivals and how they work. Thanks to the good level of skills previously acquired by the CAs involved, it was possible to spend some time in informal conversations, during which issues mainly related to the recognition of the professional value of the figure of the cultural mediator emerged, and how much this role is still devalued in terms of economic and professional recognition. TAMAT collaborators tried to stimulate reflection on this by organising a real moment of collective bargaining. The meeting was well received both in terms of economic demand (well-balanced in terms of accessibility to the service and decent for the mediator) and in terms of building a cohesive group.

The last part of the training was dedicated to a workshop aimed at co-developing local maps with CAs. TAMAT decided to receive individual feedback in participants’ residual moments from work or other activities. The dimensions addressed were mainly those related to remembering and reliving experiences and places that characterise their integration and professional pathways.

Good feedback came from the CAs following their training, which helped improve their already good skills in the field of early integration. Given the group's professionalism and their constant activity of cultural mediation, the contribution they made to the project was of immense value, expanding its pervasiveness in reaching a wider number of beneficiaries and stakeholders. The good relations created with the CA led to collaborations outside the project area, collaborating in taking care of recipients in other activities or providing mediation in other contexts.