Milan gears up to help refugees

With new welcome centre.

Milan non-profit NGO Progetto Arca has opened a new welcome centre for the almost 8,000 refugees who transit through the city every month.

Only three weeks ago the structure was filled with rubbish, but thanks to urgent work by the Italian army, the civil defence and the NGO’s own members, there is now a 500-sqm centre with computers, wi-fi, a doctors’ surgery, a children’s play area, toilets and showers, and a snack point.

What used to be the railway workers’ recreational club in Via Tonelli has been swiftly recommissioned, thanks to the Italian railway board, as a centre for volunteers to welcome refugees, talk them through the bureaucracy of registration, and take them personally to the hostels where they can overnight.

Staff speaking English, French, Arabic and Tigrinya (the language of the Horn of Africa) hand out personal hygiene kits, water and a multilingual phrasebook provided by the NGOs Fondazione Albero della Vita, Terre des Hommes and Save the Children. Refugees are able to contact their families via internet, thanks to Informatici Senza Frontiere.

The welcome centre can also give refugees shoes, clothing and other items contributed by Milan donors.

Progetto Arca welcomes enquiries by anybody who is willing to lend a hand as a volunteer worker, or contribute to the ONG’s expenses.