OMNES : The Journal of multicultural society

Current Issue

OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 11 , No. 1

[ Article ]
OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 11, No. 1, pp.20-45
ISSN: 2093-5498 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Jan 2021
Received 31 Oct 2020 Revised 10 Dec 2020 Accepted 30 Dec 2020

Forced Migration to Mountain Regions: Empirical Evidence from Two Reception Projects in the Italian Alps
Bona Marzia ; Bergamasco Giulia ; Ravazzoli Elisa
Eurac research, Italia
Eurac research, Italia
Eurac research, Italia


Following the Italian government’s strategy relocating asylum seekers and refugees outside urban centers, by 2016 the presence of asylum seekers became distinctly noticeable in the Italian Alps. This contributes to a substantial transformation of Alpine communities. As the integration of refugees depends on several dimensions, mountain relocation offers both benefits and restrictions: Physical constrains may obstruct integration, but at the same time specific mountain features can create opportunities for innovation and community development that support socio-economic and cultural integration. This paper provides empirical evidence that contributes to the study of the dimensions that influence refugees’ chances of inclusion and integration in mountain areas. It uses a case-study approach to compare two reception projects in the Italian Alps, i.e., Welcoming Village (Pettinengo, Piedmont) and Residence Le Baite (Montecampione, Lombardy). It adopts a territorial perspective to answer three research questions: Which strategies have been enacted by local organizations? Which territorial resources have been mobilized in reception projects? What are the outcomes of reception initiatives for newcomers and local communities? Our hypothesis is that the interplay between structural elements and the agency of local actors determines the framework for the integration and outcomes of reception projects for both newcomers and local communities.

Keywords: Forced migration, relocation, local development, local actors, mountains


This article is dedicated to Agitu Ideo Gudeta (1978–2020). Woman, sociologist, entrepreneur, organic farmer, refugee from Etiopia, and citizen of the world. As a mountain breeder and entrepreneur in Valle dei Mocheni, Trentino, she helped us to better understand the complexity of living and working as a newcomer in the mountains, today. Her choices and path will always remain an example. May the earth be grateful to her.

1. Ager, A., & Strang, A. (2008). Understanding integration: A conceptual framework. Journal of refugee studies, 21(2), 166–191. Retrieved from
2. Bakewell, O. (2010). Some reflections on structure and agency in migration theory. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(10), 1689–1708. doi:
3. Bender, O., & Kanitscheider, S. (2012). New immigration into the European Alps: Emerging research issues. Mountain Research and Development, 32(2), 235–241. Retrieved from
4. Berthomière, W., & Imbert, C. (2019). Quand s’engager ancre et s’ancrer « engage »: Les voies plurielles de l’autochtonie au sein des réseaux d’aide aux exilés en Ariège. L’espace politique. doi: 10.4000/espacepolitique.6832
5. Bifulco, L., & Vitale, T. (2003). Da strutture a processi: Servizi, spazi e territori del welfare locale. Sociologia Urbana e Rurale, 25(72). Retrieved from
6. Bona, M., & Marchetti, C. (2017). Il diritto d’asilo in Italia: Sviluppi normativi e nel sistema di accoglienza a partire dagli anni Novanta. In L. Gorgolini (ed.), Le migrazioni forzate nella storia d’Italia del XX secolo, Il Mulino, Bologna.
7. Cittalia-Fondazione ANCI, (2019). Rapporto annuale SPRAR/SIPROIMI: Sistema di protezione per titolari di protezione internazionale e per minori stanieri non accompagati (SPRAR/SIPROIMI 2018). Retrieved from
8. Corrado, F., Dematteis, G., & Di Gioia, A. (Eds.), (2014). Nuovi montanari. Abitare le Alpi nel XXI secolo, Milan, Italia: Franco Angeli editore, 217.
9. Corrado, A., & D’agostino, M. (2018). Migrations in multiple crisis. New development patterns for rural and inner areas in Calabria (Italy). In S. Kordel & T. Weidinger (Eds.), Processes of Immigration in Rural Europe: The Status Quo, Implications and Development Strategies (pp. 272–295). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
10. Dematteis, M., Di Gioia, A., & Membretti, A. (2018). Montanari per forza. rifugiati e richiedenti asilo nella montagna italiana, Milan, Italia: FrancoAngeli.
11. Duvanel, L. (2009). Fiasco de la politique Blocher in Droit au logement. Le journal de l’ASLOCA (188), 6–7. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
12. Felder, A. (2016). L’activité des demandeurs d’asile: Se reconstruire en exil. Toulouse, France: Eres.
13. Fratesi, U., Percoco, M., & Proietti, P. (2018). Who welcomes them? Determinants of the spatial distribution of asylum seekers in Italy. Regional Studies, 53(1). Retrieved May 6, 2020.,118–130.
14. Galera, G. et al. (2018). Integration of Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Remote Areas with Declining Populations (OECD LEED working papers 2018/03), Paris, France: OECD Publishing. doi:
15. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society. Cambridge, MA: Polity.
16. Schiller, N., & Çağlar, A. (2011). Locating migration: Rescaling cities and migrants, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
17. Glorious, B., & Doomernik, J. (2019) Geographies of Asylum in Europe and the Role of European Localities. Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature.
18. Goodwin, N. R. (2003). Five kinds of capital: Useful concepts for sustainable development (Working paper 03–07). Retrieved form Global Development and Environment Institute website:
19. Gosnell, H., & Abrams, J. (2009). Amenity migration: Diverse conceptualizations of drivers, socioeconomic dimensions, and emerging challenges. GeoJournal, 76(4), 303–322. doi:10.1007/s10708-009-9295-4
20. Heleniak, T. (2018). Migration: The wary welcome of new-comers to the Nordic region. In J. Grunfelder, L. Rispling, & G. Norlén (Eds.), State of the Nordic region 2018, 48–58.
21. Italian Ministry of Interior. (2019). Quaderno statistic dal 1990 al 2019. Retrieved from
22. Kobelinsky, C. (2012). Des corps en attente. Le Quotidien des demandeurs d’asile. Corps, 10(1), 183–192. doi: 0183
23. Lévy, J. (2014). Inhabiting. In R. Lee, N. Castree et al. (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Human Geography: Two Volume Set, Newbury Park, CA: SAGE Publishing.
24. Machold, I., Dax T., & Strahl, W. (2013). Potenziale entfalten, migration und integration in ländlichen Regionen Österreichs (Forschungsbericht 68). Wien, Australia: Bundesanstalt für Bergbauernfragen. Retrieved from
25. Maggioli, M. (2015). Dentro lo Spatial Turn: Luogo e località, spazio e territorio. Semestrale di studi e ricerche geografiche, (2). (In Italian). doi:
26. Mayring, P. (2010). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. In Günter Mey & Katja Mruck (Eds.), Handbuch qualitative Forschung in der Psychologie (pp. 601–613). Wiesbaden, Germany: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
27. Membretti, A., Viazzo, P. P., & Kofler, I. (2017). Per scelta o per forza. L’immigrazione straniera nelle Alpi e negli Appennini, Aracne, Rome.
28. OECD. (2018). Working together for local integration of migrants and refugees. Paris, France: OECD Publishing.
29. Osti, G., & Ventura, F. (2012). Vivere da stranieri in aree fragili. L’immigrazione internazionale nei comuni rurali italiani, Naples, Italia: Liguori.
30. Penninx, R., & Garcés-Mascareñas, B. (Eds.), (2016). Integration processes and policies in Europe. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
31. Perlik, M., Galera, G., Machold, I., & Membretti, A. (2019). Alpine refugees: Immigration at the core of Europe. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge Scholars.
32. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
33. Raffestin, C. (2012). Space, territory, and territoriality. Environment and planning D: Society and space, 30(1), 121–141. doi: 1068/d21311
34. Ravazzoli, E., Torre, C. D., & Streifeneder, T. (2019). Transforming the role of women farmers and of refugees: Two Italian experiences of social innovation in mountain areas. Journal of Alpine Research| Revue de géographie alpine, 107(2). doi: https://journals.openediti
35. Sheller, M., & Urry, J. (2006). The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 38(2), 207–226. Retrieved May 8, 2020. doi:
36. Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. London, UK: Sage.
37. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Biographical Note

Bona Marzia, MA. is a researcher at the EURAC Institute for Regional Development. She is the project manager of the H2020 research project MATILDE, that studies the impact of Third Country Nationals in rural and mountain areas across Europe. She holds a Master of Arts from the University of Bologna in International Relations and pursued additional specialization in gender studies, human rights and diversity management (Euro-Balkan, Skopje; IECOB, Bologna; University of Sarajevo). Her current research focuses on migrants’ integration in mountain regions and the role of transnational movements and civil society in integration processes. E-mail:

Bergamasco Giulia holds an MA in European affairs from the University of Rennes. She has been working as a trainee at the Institute for regional development. E-mail:

Ravazzoli Elisa, Ph.D. is senior researcher at the EURAC Institute for Regional Development. She focuses on the investigation of contemporary phenomena (e.g. demographic change, internal and international migration) from a spatial and sociological perspective. She holds a PhD in Economics - Policy and Culture of the Territory from the University of Bologna and a MA in Geography and Territorial Processes from the same university. Her research focuses on different topics related to human, regional and spatial geography (e.g. population patterns; socio-spatial transformations; regional spatial disparities; urban-rural divide; public spaces) and she is interested in the impacts of internal and international migration on local and rural development. Email: