Migration to Italy has drastically increased, with thousands of refugees traveling by sea to Sicily every month. International refugee policy is largely managed through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and although it attempts to regulate refugee assistance, immigration policy within the European Union is complex and continuously fluctuating. Upon arrival in Sicily, authorities send refugees to first reception centers, and then transfer them to second reception centers operated by local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The implementation of Italian immigration policy varies among regions; resettlement agencies often transfer refugees among centers where they receive different economic assistance, thus creating further harm to this marginalized population. While there is abundant scholarship regarding refugee resettlement, there is little anthropological research concerning the conditions of second reception centers for refugees in the specific geopolitical region of Siracusa, Sicily. Further, little is known about centers for unaccompanied minors, and due to the increasing number of minors arriving in Italy, additional anthropological research is critical in understanding the conditions of second reception centers for children in Sicily. I conducted ethnographic research in 2015 and 2016 at six refugee centers in Siracusa: three for unaccompanied minors, two for adults, and one for men, women, and children. In this thesis, I explore the perceptions of refugees concerning the treatment and services that they receive at second reception centers after arriving in Italy. I examine how resettlement policies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) shape refugees' experiences in transitioning within Sicilian society, arguing that certain policies and NGO practices restrict refugees' socioeconomic mobility. Specifically, this project aims to answer the following research questions: •What challenges do refugees face after arriving at reception and resettlement centers in Sicily? •How do current migration policies affect newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers? I argue that current policies, and their implementation, place refugees in circumstances that restrict their socioeconomic mobility, keeping them in impoverished conditions. The effectiveness of humanitarian aid is important to understand, not only within anthropology, but also concerning refugee policy to identify ineffective practices, as well as successful non-governmental practices for assisting refugees. Through ethnographic analysis, this research will deepen the understanding of the effects refugee policy creates in the lives of refugees in Sicily; therefore, contributing to the scholarship of how policy can prevent future harm to refugees after they arrive in Italy.


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Graduation Date





Mishtal, Joanna


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program










Release Date

May 2018

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)

Included in

Anthropology Commons