From Ethiopia to Italy: A humanitarian corridor research project

Author: Costanza Montanari

Img 6905Schnyder met several families along the corridor

Ilaria Schnyder Von Wartensee is a research assistant professor with the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Since 2017, she has been working on a five-year Humanitarian Corridor Research Project sponsored by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Ford Program in Human Development. The research focuses on one particular corridor, extending from Ethiopia to Italy. In January of 2017, the Italian Bishops’ Conference and three NGOs, Caritas Italy, Migrantes, and Sant’Egidio, signed an agreement with the Italian government to introduce a safe passage for 500 Eritreans, South Sudanese and Somalis (Christians and Muslims) to resettle from Ethiopian refugee camps to communities in Italy.

Schnyder’s research will analyze and evaluate the integration experience of the 500 refugees into Italian society over a period of five years.

“Our research will shed light on the wider context of the role of religion, faith and dignity in one of the most pressing political and social challenges of our times, namely international migration,” comments Schnyder.

“The role of accompaniment, the reality of encounter between refugees and their Catholic hosts, and the general cultural context, is of special interest to us.”

Since November of 2017, approximately 150 refugees arrived to Italian shores in separate flights. Schnyder, together with Caritas and Sant’Egidio volunteers, is accompanying them from Ethiopia to Italy, meeting them in the refugee camps, and witnessing their pre-departure cultural orientation. Upon arrival to Italy, refugees are located and welcomed into local communities, families, churches, schools, and dioceses. Schnyder, as part of her research, will follow them during their integration period, through a variety of narratives and daily experiences of both beneficiaries and communities in different geographical contexts. She says refugees are welcomed in all sorts of realities, from rural to urban, from southern to northern Italy, with clear diverse reactions of locals and volunteers.

EthiopiaRefugees in Ethiopia getting ready before leaving to Italy

“Sorrento, the famous touristic town overlooking the bay of Naples, for instance, has welcomed a big group of refugees,” says Schnyder.

“Being a small town, it is not used to witnessing migration episodes, and everyone reacted with fear and closure, especially hotel owners, scared for their business. I happened to know one of the owners and suggested that he organize a meeting with all the hoteliers and the “new citizens of Sorrento,” to ask them all the questions they had and dissolve the fear of the unknown.”

Schnyder says this is something possible only in small municipalities or towns, whereas bigger cities, such as Rome, are more likely to be distant although more welcoming to refugees. The project is taking her all over Italy to meet the communities and interview the people involved.

The Rome Global Gateway has opened an internship position for students studying abroad in Rome this upcoming fall semester, to help Schnyder manage and transcribe the interviews of Caritas professionals, beneficiaries, diocese representatives, tutor families, and school teachers. Schnyder describes it as a unique opportunity to take part in an exciting project that works to identify how to best utilize religious factors for the purposes of integration, while offering simultaneously, to ordinary citizens, a privileged and direct opportunity to act and engage responsibly with refugees.

For more information on the available internship, email Mallory Nardin, director of student affairs at the Rome Global Gateway.