Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Please note that all times are shown in the time zone of the conference. The current conference time is: 27th Jan 2022, 04:19:10am EET

Session Overview
Symposium 5: Learning from Researching the Experiences of Social Workers with Asylum Seekers in North Greece and South Italy in the COVID-19 Context
Wednesday, 16/June/2021:
4:30pm - 6:00pm

Session Chair: Shulamit Ramon
Location: Parallel Session 4

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Learning from researching the experiences of social workers with asylum seekers in North Greece and South Italy in the covid-19 context

Chair(s): Shulamit Ramon (University of Hertfordshire)

Discussant(s): Shulamit Ramon (university of Hertfordshire), James Cox (Social Work Scotland)

We are conducting currently research on The Challenges of Social Work with asylum seekers in North Greece and South Italy.

This unique study aims to highlight the key issues for social workers at this frontline of European social work. The issues will include barriers, facilitators, challenges and achievements entailed in their work from their own perspective in the Covid-19 context.

Asylum seekers clients are interviewed as to their views on the contribution of social workers to support their transition period within the Covid-19 pandemic .North Greece and South Italy were chosen as European sites with large numbers of asylum seekers.

We aim to interview by phone or online a total of 40 social workers specialising in asylum seeking, and a similar number of asylum seekers.

The study includes also having an advisory group in each site with representatives of social work and migrants organisations

The data analysis of the recorded interviews will follow thematic analysis principles, conducted by local researchers as well as by the UK researchers and practitioners. The analysis will shed light on the underlying dimensions of working within a highly stressful environment for both workers and clients, due to current living conditions, high level of uncertainty concerning the future of each asylum seeker, the political positions of the governments and public opinion of the two countries and EU policy concerning asylum seekers, the and the impact of the pandemic.

Lessons learned from the study pertaining to the achievements, challenges, failures and recommendations concerning near future social work with asylum seekers in North Greece and South Italy, as well as in the rest of Europe, will be outlined.

The presenters and the discussants have considerable experience of practice and research in this field.


Presentations of the Symposium


Learning from researching and experiences of social workers with asylum seekers in North Greece

Theano Kallinikaki1, Roberta di Rosa2, Elena Allegri3
1Democritus University Trace, 2Palermo University, 3Piemonte Orientale

Theano Kallinikaki, Democritus University of Thrace, Greece.

Since 2015, the largest part of the social work practice has been developed to Migrants Refugees practice, not only for social workers who work in services and programs targeted to these groups, but also for those who work in other sectors.

Hence this research took place in North Greece, near the land border between Greece and Turkey from where the refugees come.

Local authorities, as well as national and international NGOs are running programs of hosting and supporting the most vulnerable asylum seekers.

We had skype interviews with representatives of refugees and social workers in housing programs, massive camps, safe zones, youth support centers, shelters for unaccompanied children and vulnerable families, foster care street work, protective custody, and in medical services, in cities and semi-urban towns.

The focus was on the new challenges due to recent governmental migration policy, and of working and living in the context of the Covid19 pandemic since March 2020. The data describe the consequences of the lockdown, for those living in closed camps and housing programs, on refugees life and on the role, the methods, interventions and referrals social workers used to apply before.

Social workers need adequate equipment for remote work and distant contact, including interpreters, to optimize their contribution in this highly challenging context. Policy change which will enable asylum seekers to have the status of refugees and to open the rest of Europe to them has to accompany this change.


Rethinking support relationship in covid-19 times: challenges for social work in the Italian asylum seekers reception system

Roberta di Rosa1, Elena Allegri2
1Palermo University, 2Piemonte Orientale

Roberta T. Di Rosa, University of Palermo, and Elena Allegri, University of Piemonte Orientale, Italy

Social work has played a key role in the attempt to integrate of migrants in Italy. Ever since the first rescue operations, social workers have represented the interface of the Italian reception system, meeting migrants face to face, welcoming them and getting to know their personal histories.

Nevertheless, in the daily practice of social workers there are marked variations in the professional skills involved and in the consistency and effectiveness of the interventions on offer, often required to remedy the deficiencies of existing policies for this high need group.

Critical issues for Social Workers in the migration field are mainly linked to the motivations and skills of the operators; their level of cultural sensitivity; the jeopardized provision of resources and the services’ capacity for inclusion; the pressure created by governmental social policies; and the tough challenge of reconciling the professional and institutional mandates.

The COVID 19 emergency is an inevitable and largely insurmountable challenge for all migrants, but in particular for asylum seekers hosted in the reception system, who experience a high level of uncertainty even before the pandemic. This emergency has increased vulnerabilities and uncertainties, requiring both asylum seekers and professionals to be able to readjust and reshape life plans and aid processes.

Starting from the testimonies and indications on methods and strategies collected from social workers working in the reception facilities, we will share a reflective summary on the redefinition of the helping relationship in times of emergency; the centrality of reflexivity and on the tools tested. In particular, we focus on critical points and resilience strategies of social worker in this demanding field in pandemic times, highlighting effective practices in the support process, thus making a contribution to future development of social work knowledge and methods.

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