ABSTRACT

This chapter draws from the findings of research conducted from 2008 to 2010 by a group composed of five postgraduate students in political sciences whom the author supervised. The aim of the research was to produce an ethnographic study of the local institutions in the city of Ravenna, Italy, in charge of the ‘protection and social integration’ of refugees and asylum seekers, and to analyse the way the national asylum system functions from an anthropological perspective. In particular, the objective was to understand how national and transnational policies were implemented in everyday practices at the local urban level within a specific refugees’ reception project, how bureaucratic procedures for refugee status determination affected the lives and needs of asylum seekers, and how local administrative practices addressed issues such as housing, employment and health. An ethnographic approach was adopted to examine everyday life inside local offices and organizations in charge of what was referred to as the ‘reception and integration’ process for asylum seekers and refugees – including voluntary organizations. The researchers participated in their activities and attended their meetings. They also conducted selected in-depth interviews with social workers, policymakers, lawyers and medical doctors, as well as with refugees and asylum seekers hosted by the project.