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Open Alps 2017

The Italian town of Como in winter. In summer many refugees are stranded here, stuck on the southern edge of the Alps on their journey northwards. © Michael Gwyther-Jones (flickr)

The end of 2016 saw the announcement of the winners of the 2017 “Open Alps” human rights award. This honour is given to individuals or groups who actively work for the rights of refugees, immigrants, socially disadvantaged persons and threatened minorities in Europe.

This year two organisations are recognised as having distinguished themselves with their special efforts with regard to the ongoing wave of refugees arriving in Europe: the “Associazione Firdaus” run by Lisa Bosia Mirra, cantonal councillor in the southern Swiss canton of Tessin/Ticino; and the “Progetto Accoglienza Rebbio”, an initiative by the priest Don Giusto Della Valle in Como, Italy, which looks after unaccompanied minors on the run.

The award is intended to strengthen these initiatives while making the public more aware that the Alps have repeatedly  witnessed migration throughout their history. Last summer this tradition was put to the test with the closure of borders along the Southern Alps, from the Brenner Pass in Austria to Ventimiglia in Italy and Chiasso in Switzerland.

Many rural communities and regions in the Alps are struggling with major demographic challenges such as aging and the population drifting away: at the same time numerous localities are developing innovative models for the integration of people migrating to local communities and the jobs market. Such immigrants may be young families, those seeking alternatives and “new mountaineers”, seasonal workers in tourism or in agriculture, as well as people fleeing wars who are looking for a new home for themselves and their families. The PlurAlps project offers solutions as to how local authorities, business and civil society can contribute to cultural diversity and pluralism becoming a strength for the Alpine regions, with the improvement of social cohesion in local communities. CIPRA International is participating in the project via the not-for-profit company CIPRA Lab.

 

Sources and further information:

www.sosf.ch/de/themen/asyl/informationen-artikel/offene-alpen-2017.html?zur=41 (de), PDF Media Release Open Alps 2017 (fr, de), www.cipra.org/de/cipra/international/projekte/laufend/pluralps (de, fr, it, sl)

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