On August 25, the first 112 refugees—mainly women and children—from Afghanistan arrived in Tuscany. The region is expected to provide shelter for about 200 people fleeing their homeland since the Taliban gained control of Kabul.
In a social media post, Eugenio Giani, president of the Tuscany Region, published photographs of the first Afghans to reach Florence, their faces blurred to ensure confidentiality, with the words: “Disoriented, without any luggage, our planes were the only means of escape from the terrible situation that lay in store for them”.
The Italian government has increased the reception and integration places (known as SAI – Sistema di Accoglienza e Integrazione) available throughout the peninsula. The SAI is regarded as the best way to manage the arrival of Afghan refugees due to its focus on integration.
Florence’s police chief, Alessandra Guidi, set out the practical aspect of sheltering the refugees. “We have established a coordination team among the region’s police chiefs to manage the reception of the 122 refugees who have been assigned to Tuscany…Our job is to ensure organized shelter as we have a duty to make sure that certain standards are upheld for the Afghans and for all asylum seekers, regardless of where they come from.”
Politics aside, one Italian organization has been helping the women of Afghanistan since 1999. Protecting the rights of Afghan women remains the primary goal of CISDA. With branches in Milan, Florence, Rome and Turin, the association has worked on projects, sharing ideas and experiences, with Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, Humanitarian Association of Women and Children of Afghanistan, Organization Promoting Afghan Women Capabilities, Social Afghan Association of Justice Seekers, Afghan Child Education and Care Organization, Defence Committee di Malalai Joya, and HAMBASTAGI (Solidarity Party of Afghanistan). Over the years, the group has welcomed delegates from Afghan organizations to talk about their activities as well as holding public meetings, book presentations and film screenings, fundraising events and educational outreach in schools.
The news is especially devastating for the likes of Cristiana Cella, the point person for CISDA’s Florence delegation, who is in contact with women’s rights organizations in Afghanistan. “Unfortunately, we’re only receiving fragments of news and what we’re hearing is dramatic,” Celli explains in an article published in La Nazione. “We’ve been trying to organize humanitarian corridors to get people out, but it’s not easy. I daren’t imagine what the future will hold; all the little steps made for women’s rights over the years will be erased.”
How can we help the Afghan cause?
Refugees Welcome (www.refugees-welcome.it) is one way to offer housing to refugees as well as volunteering as a mentor.
The UN Refugee Agency (www.unhcr.org) is running a fundraising campaign for relief kits for displaced Afghans in the country and across borders. Likewise, UNICEF (www.unicef.org) and the International Red Cross (www.icrc.org). All three NGO remain on the ground.