Italy: Government programme for active citizenship of young refugees

June 8, 2017 12:48 pm

The 31 May 2017, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Cabinet of the Prime Minister agreed to fund a programme that will facilitate the access of refugees to the National Civil Service and signed a new Memorandum of Understanding. Ad-hoc resources from the national quota of the AMIF funds will also be allocated for this purpose.

Nearly 3000 refugee volunteers will be involved in the next three years in specific projects in the fields of social and personal assistance, environment, cultural heritage protection, education and intercultural dialogue.

Such initiative is explicitly framed as a measure to implement the EC Action Plan on the Integration of Third Country Nationals presented in June 2016 insofar as it promotes volunteering as a means to achieve active participation and social inclusion of young refugees. Besides, it is also meant as tool to enhance their skills and employability, therefore putting into practice the New Skills Agenda for Europe adopted in June 2016.

The National Civil Service is a nation-wide programme aimed at fostering active citizenship among younger generations through participation in voluntary activities in Italy and abroad.

Young volunteers may apply for one of the hundreds of offers made available by third sector organisations or public institutions and receive a small remuneration in the form of a monthly lump sum (around 450 EUR) covering living expenses.

They usually participate in the social activities of the host organisations for a period of 8-12 months. Volunteering activities in the framework of the National Civil Service programme are seen as a valuable training opportunity and, in some cases, a stepping stone for future employment.

Civil Service was initially introduced in the 1970s to provide an alternative to mandatory military conscription for those young male adults that refused or were unable to join the armed forces due to religious or personal reasons.

Its scope has gradually broadened and in 2001 a National Civil Service programme, distinct and autonomous from the military service, was introduced. Since the abolition of military conscription in 2005 it is open to all young adults, both males and females, aged between 18 and 28, holding the Italian citizenship.

This latter requirement has de facto excluded from participation in the programme all children of immigrants that, although regular resident in Italy, did not get easy access to naturalisation.

Following important rulings by the Supreme Court, which declared such provisions discriminatory and illegitimate, a reform approved in 2015 has extended the participation to the National Civil Service programme also to young non-EU nationals legally residing in Italy.