Family sponsorship for refugees in Palermo

Practice Aim

To achieve autonomy and positive inclusion of vulnerable groups through reception in local families as a path of integration and active citizenship, by sharing spaces and experiences, enhancing reciprocity and autonomy.

Target Groups

Unaccompanied Children migrants who have already left the reception system but are not completely independent.

“L’accoglienza in famiglia come percorso di integrazione“ project

Municipality of Palermo and Refugees Welcome Italia (RWI) Onlus
The Municipality of Palermo is partner of the project “From experience to model” funded by the Ministry of the Interior, Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration under the AMIF Fund which will widen the experimentation of the methodology of reception in the family, through the scientific validation, in five Italian municipalities: Rome, Palermo, Bari, Macerata and Ravenna.


The project of family sponsorship is a call for the reception of minors in families, in order to welcome into local families unaccompanied migrants who have already left the reception system but are not completely independent. With the support of a network of families and facilitators, these people can continue their path towards inclusion, thus avoiding finding themselves in a situation of fragility that would jeopardize the progresses made so far.
Reception is not seen as a response to an emergency, but as the concrete demonstration of ‘I am a person, we are a community’ city slogan, aiming to respect all human beings, as well as actively involving citizens. It’s an opportunity for migrants’ integration process to be carried out by families, so that migrants might deal with subjects other than local authorities and institutions. This project confirms that all citizens might participate in public life. The reception within families confirms the image of Palermo as a cohesive community where residents take care of each other, where those who have more resources accompany those who currently live a difficult situation.

Target VG and type of host community

  • Unaccompanied migrants who have already left the reception system but are not completely independent. These are foreign children who arrived in Italy as minors, alone, without family. They are generally welcomed in dedicated centres, where they begin a process of integration at risk of being abruptly interrupted when they reach the age of majority, when they are forced to leave these structures to go to adult centres.
  • Hosting community: Anyone interested in receiving an unaccompanied migrant for at least six months can apply. All people – e.g. families, pensioners, single people, students – who have a free room available and wish to use it to accommodate a refugee.

Application setting: context

The downsizing of the SPRAR – the flagship of the Italian reception system -, the abolition of humanitarian protection, the exclusion of asylum seekers from integration services, the increase of large centres and the tightening of the norms concerning citizenship, some of the measures contained in the Security Decree have negatively impacted the structure of the entire national reception system.
“This decree represents a worrying step backwards,” stresses Fabiana Musicco, president of Refugee Welcome Italia. “Instead of strengthening the widespread reception system managed by local authorities, which has favoured, in recent years, real processes of inclusion for asylum seekers and holders of protection, we choose to strengthen the emergency rationale of the large centres that, in addition to hindering any integration, often leads to abuse and embezzlement due to a lack of control”.
Refugees Welcome Italia is concerned with the abolition of humanitarian protection, a residence permit that the Italian State grants to those who present vulnerabilities requiring a form of protection, even though they do not have the requirements for obtaining international protection.
This reception project is in continuity with the experience started in 2017 with the promotion and identification on the city’s territory of “Voluntary guardians” for unaccompanied foreign minors, which was characterised by a great response from civil society with more than a hundred applications.
The work carried out by the Volunteer Guardians with foreign boys and girls has shown that who has recently come of age needs further support before reaching adulthood in order to consolidate the experience started and complete their life project. From this point of view, the Childhood and Adolescence ombudsman facilitate relationships between institutions, resources of the territory, civil society and foreign unaccompanied minors/ new adults.


  • To promote reception in local families as a path of integration
  • To promote participation and active citizenship, by sharing spaces and experiences, enhancing reciprocity and autonomy
  • To facilitate the inclusion of refugees in our country, strengthen social cohesion and help counter prejudices and stereotypes
  • To achieve autonomy and positive inclusion of vulnerable groups


The following subjects may apply for admission to the selection process: couples with or without children, individual citizens, roommates, pensioners who meet the following general requirements:

  • domiciled in Palermo;
  • over 23 years of age;
  • enjoy civil and political rights;
  • not have been excluded from the active political electorate;
  • persons against whom a sentence has NOT been passed in the following cases judged, or issued a criminal conviction which has become irrevocable, or a judgment of application of the penalty on request, in accordance with Article 444 of the Code of Procedure criminal; i.e. subjects without pending criminal charges.

As well as the following special requirements:

  • availability of a room for the guest;
  • availability to support the person for at least 6 months in his or her journey towards autonomy.

The applications received will be examined by a Commission consisting of Childhood and Adolescence Guarantor, a local RWI contact person, a contact person of the Sector Social Welfare Services, Social Citizenship Area.

The Commission will perform the following steps in order to make it easy to identify the families:

  • verification of subjective requirements;
  • analysis of the letter of motivation;
  • interview/interview.

Individuals who pass the selection procedure will have to participate in a training course on the issues related to family hospitality in connection with the local RWI group and will be entered into the list of RWI families.

In order to keep being featured in the list, selected individuals should always fulfil access requirements.


The matching and the meetings between refugees and families are followed step by step by the association: if everything goes well, the cohabitation can start (also by signing a hospitality contract) as well as the project that the refugee has developed along with Refugees Welcome. The youth should commit themselves to resume studying, finding a job, attending a vocational training course. Families become more active and aware and are real “natural mentors” for refugees who try to enter a new community, activating their human and professional resources.


A digital platform, a rigorous methodology and a team of 200 trained and qualified activists in Italy.
The network of formally welcoming cities, which also multiply the possibilities of family/refugee combinations for the surrounding areas, has a greater presence in the north in large and small towns and cities – from Milan and Turin to Mantua, Padua, Monza, Imperia, Cuneo, Aosta and Bolzano, to name a few – but it is also active in the main cities of central and southern Italy, as well as Rome, Naples, Bari, Palermo, Catania and Cagliari. Today there are 150 cohabitation experiences in Italy, and each one is a story of encounter and human and social enrichment, the concrete demonstration that prejudices and stereotypes can be fought, if one wishes to do so. Most of the times, they are couples who have grown up children who have gone to live alone or study in another city, but also young couples or mononuclear families.

Difficulties or constrains for its implementation

  • Initial doubts of migrants about living with Italians


  • Family hospitality can be a decisive contribution to the refugee’s journey towards full autonomy: living with local people is the best way to become part of a community and to get to know the social and cultural context of the host country more quickly. Refugees can easily create a network of social relationships, improve their language skills, reactivate human and professional resources, invest in their own life project: resume studying, find a job, attend a vocational training course. The reception in the family favours expressing personal potential, participation and the achievement of well-being.
  • The project promotes a reception model which can help to combat prejudice, discrimination and clichés as it is based on exchange, encounter and mutual knowledge between refugees and Italian citizens. Welcoming people into the family is good for both refugees and citizens who decide to open the doors of their homes. Those who host a refugee at home have the opportunity to get to know a new culture, help a person build a life project in our country, become a more aware and active citizen, create new ties.
  • One of the strengths of Refugees Welcome Italia’s methodology is that both the family and the refugee can ask to end cohabitation at any time if they are not comfortable or if there are problems in their relationship. Our facilitators are available to accompany and support the actors in case of conflicts or difficulties. If it is not possible to continue cohabitation, a so-called “bench” family is identified: these are the suitable families, profiled and trained by RWI, who remain available on the territory for such needs, or for the start of a new cohabitation in case the first one has not allowed the hosted person to reach autonomy.


The project, at the moment, is not part of the institutional reception system managed by the Italian Government. This means that it does not receive the daily allowance provided by the Ministry of the Interior for the reception of asylum seekers and refugees. The organisation is working to build partnerships with institutions and organizations, so that the scheme can be financed by local authorities and, therefore, provide a reimbursement for the people who decide to host. At the moment, for families who request it, it is possible to activate fundraising campaigns in order to support their participation in the process. The organisation recommends micro-donations through crowdfunding: by activating the network of friends and family, it is possible to collect small monthly contributions to support expenses.

Year and length (duration)

Since 2015 (since 2019 in Palermo)

CRITERIA actors or stakeholder are using to assess them as a “good practice”

  • It’s a model of social innovation, acceptance and inclusion that looks at active citizenship as a factor that can promote a more cohesive society, but foster autonomy and a full and positive integration of people who come from situations of war and poverty.
  • The project enhances policy change as well as more effective and sustainable response for the whole community.
  • Direct involvement of citizens and better social cohesion by fighting against prejudices and stereotypes.
  • Rigorous and punctual working methodology, which is constantly improved thanks to the dialogue with all the actors involved: families, refugees, facilitators, operators of the associations involved. The process is followed, monitored and facilitated by our local teams.

Notes (additional info, remarks)