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Facilitating access to social protection for migrants & refugees through Law Clinics

Turin: Pilot Phase

In 2016, the pilot phase of this initiative was launched in collaboration with the IUC, the ITCILO and the International Labour Organization ILO. The pilot phase activities are part of the framework of IUC’s Human Rights and Migration Law Clinic (HRMLC). The HRMLC was established in 2011 and is organized by the IUC in partnership with the Departments of Law of the Universities of Turin and Eastern Piedmont in Alessandria. The IUC with its HRMLC is one of the driver behind of a larger network of Clinics known as ENCLE.


HRMLC attempts to bridge the gap between classroom education and the reality of professional practice, emphasizing the sensitization of students as future professionals to the problems of social justice and to foster a sense of social responsibility. It has two primary objectives: first, to encourage students throughout their clinical experience (supervised by university staff or legal practitioners) to envisage how legal institutions and practices can be reformed and reorganized to provide the best service and secondly, to provide the much-needed pro bono legal information to under-represented individuals and organizations within Turin's area, complementing the already existing support provided by local organizations working for the benefit of migrants. The HRMLC functions by combining a classroom component with practical activities. The activities cover areas from pro bono legal information (for example to migrants and refugees) to strategic litigation, research and advocacy activities.


The pilot phase comprises a series of activities that match the objectives of the project, but also meet the programing and requirements of HRMLC and the interests of the students.


Concretely, the pilot project is following the two-phased annual structure of the HRMLC.


In the first phase of the project year, partners organized a joint seminar on migrants’ right to work and access to social protection. The seminar took place at the ITC-ILO campus in Turin and represented an important occasion for the students to learn more about ILO’s action in the field of migration and social protection, to better understand the relevant international legal framework and to discuss the basis of the research work together with officers from ILO Geneva and ITC-ILO. Moreover, a web platform was established and used for dissemination of knowledge and information among partners and students.


In the second phase of the project, which is taking place in the context of the practical and research activities of the HRMLC, a group of five clinical program’ students are carrying out research on access to work, social protection and health care for migrants, with a particular focus on the local context.


The research work, conducted under the supervision of IUC professors and ILO and ITC-ILO staff, started with an analysis of the main information gaps. These were based on more than 80 interviews with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the Turin area. A report will be drafted by the students analysing the legal framework and the local administrative practices with regard to migrants’ access to social protection on the basis of their research. A particular focus will be given to the decent work and social protection rights of this group as this was identified as the main knowledge gap according to the results of the interviews.


The legal report will then serve as a basis to develop practical material (i.e. toolbox or leaflets) informing migrants and local actors on the practical steps to be undertaken in order to access the main social benefits and services in the area.


The pilot is intended to be finalised at the end of the 2016 through a joint final seminar. The seminar will take place in Turin and will serve to present the outcome of the research to local actors and civil society and to all partners involved. Moreover, the seminar will represent an important occasion to present the project to potential future partners and discuss possibilities of extension and replication of the project in other European universities.


Finally, a self-evaluation of the pilot will be undertaken among participating students, resource persons and key staff involved from IUC, ILO and ITC-ILO.


Though not yet completed, the pilot phase has shown the great potential for organizations and actors to collaborate and operate at the international but also local level. On the one hand, the project gave the students the possibility to match theoretical study with hands-on work on the very topical question of migration and access to social protection. This allowed them to achieve awareness on migrants’ rights at the international and local level, and at the same time to learn how to carry out research work, including drafting and conducting questionnaires and identifying the most relevant needs.


On the other hand, the linkage with local actors permitted to maintain a concrete approach to the issue of migration and access to social protection, taking into consideration not only the legal framework but also the practical barriers and local administrative practices. It also provided an avenue to elucidate the role of the ILO and its international legal framework in improving migrants and refugees’ access to decent work and social protection and build capacity of local actors and possible future policy-makers, managers or technical staff.


Finally, more concretely, this project is expected to lead to the development of practical material which will be disseminated among associations working with migrants and migrants themselves, thus facilitating migrants’ access to social protection in the local area.