This page has been developed as a result of many people coming to Italy to work with refugees, only to be surprised by certain things when they arrive. Most of us, despite what we have been told, will maintain previously conceived ideas based on what we know. In this document, we intend to clear up common misconceptions and provide an accurate understanding of what you can expect once you arrive.
How often do you get to go help the refugees get out of the boats?
Never. The Italian Navy and Coast Guard or other rescue boats from various non-profit organizations bring the refugees in from the Mediterranean and take them directly to the camps. Only large relief organizations such as the International Red Cross and Save the Children are allowed into the ports where the boats arrive to disembark and work with the refugees at that stage.
Where are all of the Syrians?
The Syrian war has been terrible and has caused an unprecedented number of people to be displaced. However, most of the Syrians headed into Europe went northward from Syria toward Germany, or until recently, into Greece through Turkey. There are some refugees from Syria who come through Sicily, but it is both an inconvenient and an especially dangerous route, so most Syrians do not come to Europe through Italy.
Where are all of the women and children?
While there are women and children who come to Italy, most of them are rightfully closely guarded by the Italian government. Most of the women and children will not venture outside of the camps very frequently as the younger men frequently do. Therefore, most of the people that we will be with will be men between the age of 20-40.
Why do they call it a camp?
Most people have an idea of a camp as a place with tents, fences, and dry dust flying everywhere. We get this idea from news stories that we have seen on TV, but this is not the reality of the camps in Italy. Instead, when Italians and refugees in Italy refer to a camp, they typically mean a place that more resembles a dormitory. Typically, it is run by a private organization, paid by the government, and is generally clean and provides a decent place for the refugees to live. The Italians and the refugees in Italy refer to these as camps, so we also refer to them as camps.