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Intercultural Mediation

Intercultural Mediation

Intercultural mediation is a constructive practice which favours dialogue and the coming together of migrants and the receiving society. Intercultural mediators are migrants themselves and offer professional services including interpreting, translation, and cultural counselling: they act as a “bridge” between the migrants’ needs and the services offered by Italian public and private institutions.


Intercultural mediation relies on migrant staff when working in the public and private sector, to favour the reception and integration of other migrant citizens into society. CIES’s activities in the mediation field are aimed at supporting relations between migrants and institutions, to contribute to their actual integration; helping public or private services and their operators to overcome barriers when communicating with migrants; ensuring equal opportunities to migrants enjoying citizenship rights; supporting intercultural practices when providing services Both institutions and migrants enjoy the benefits of mediation.



For more than 25 years, CIES has worked in the sector of intercultural mediation by:


  • offering intercultural mediation services, both on a ongoing basis (according to predetermined shifts and timing) and on demand
  • organizing basic training courses, specialisation and vocational training courses for mediators and operators working with institutions
  • carrying out research on the professional role and qualifications of intercultural mediators at the national level and on mediation itself in several domains, at the national and European level

The Intercultural Mediation Department of CIES cooperates with Ministries, local authorities, Municipal authorities, Schools, Hospitals, Local Healthcare Units, and social private sector associations.


The scope of activities carried out by CIES is national. Over the years, CIES has developed the ability to implement projects in several places at the same time: indeed, our organization can rely, both on long-established remote management and checking systems, accompanied by frequent follow-up missions in the peripheral centres and on a network of mediators distributed all over the national territory, established by CIES over the years and providing key resources for dependable and effective mediation services.


Cultural mediators support Italian operators (police staff, medical and paramedical staff, International Agency staff), during landings of foreign migrants on the coasts of our countries. In particular, intercultural mediators help the police during landings, with preliminary identification operations and photo/fingerprints documents and with filling the C3 form required for applying for International Protection. At the Immigration Offices in the Central Police Stations, intercultural mediators help Italian operators when dealing directly with foreigners who apply for international protection or request the renewal and collection of residence permits and/or other documents, C3 identification forms, other forms, and provide information and counselling. In First Reception Centres, the role of mediators is to help operators with different professional roles: they assist healthcare operators during first aid; police staff during identification procedures and when checking that all conditions are met for granting the status; social workers and psychologists during interviews with migrants. In general, mediators help all the staff working in the centre deal with the first stages of reception.

In all phases of the International Protection procedure, Asylum Seekers have the right to be assisted by an interpreter helping them to manage their relations with Italian institutions. A key passage of the procedure is the personal interview, that is, the moment when Asylum Seekers are summoned to tell their story and the reasons why they had to flee their country to a Commission called to decide whether to grant protection or not (refugee status, subsidiary protection, humanitarian protection).


During the interview, interpreters should translate all words as accurately and neutrally as possible and, thanks to their intercultural mediation skills, enable comprehension at a deeper level: the ability to listen, intercultural awareness and empathy with the Asylum Seeker’s background, trauma, and emotions are all elements enriching communication and adding those cultural meanings helping the Asylum Seeker to communicate and the members of the Commission to fully understand his/her requests.

In Secondary Reception Centres, intercultural mediators work side by side with operators when interviewing migrants, helping them to reconstruct their migration project and design a new one allowing social and professional integration in the receiving country, according to the migrants’ requests and needs. Besides, cultural mediators help the Centre’s managing staff to provide information on services provided by local authorities and, if necessary, continue assisting migrants in their relations with other institutions.


In Centres for Minors, intercultural mediators work with children and adolescents, help communication between minors and institutions. Indeed, young people in these situations often experience psychological distress and emotional conflicts, which bring about mistrust in the receiving society. Intercultural mediators can also act as a bridge between minors and teachers at school and between minors and their families of origin (if there is any).


In this domain, CIES currently works with other third sector stakeholders managing foreign migrants’ reception centres (Asylum Seekers or people entitled to International Protection), providing linguistic and cultural mediation services to migrants and operators. In particular, these services are provided in:


  • Reception Centres in the SPRAR Network managed by the GUS (Humanitarian Help Group) of Minturno, Formia, and Sonnino.
  • CAS (Extraordinary Reception Centres) managed by the GUS (Humanitarian Help Group) of Marino and Formia
  • Reception Centre “Ferrohotel” for Asylum Seekers and people entitled to International Protection managed by CARITAS, within the framework of a SPRAR project.
  • Reception Centre of the charity organisation “Istituto Sacra Famiglia”

Intercultural mediation services are also provided in the healthcare sector: hospitals, counselling centres, medical practices, especially those specialized in the care of women and children and in the assistance to patients affected by psychological and psychiatric issues.

The intercultural mediators’ action is aimed, in particular, at overcoming difficulties often experienced by migrants due to the difference between their life so far, their notion of health/disease/treatment, and the services provided by healthcare facilities in the receiving country. Intercultural mediators also deal with situations of distress which often occur, especially for women.

In this domain, CIES currently manages intercultural mediation services for:

  • SPDC: Psychiatric Diagnostic and Treatment Centre in the following hospitals: San Camillo-Forlanini, Sant’Eugenio, San Giovanni dell’Addolorata, Sant’Andrea, Santo Spirito, Policlinico Umberto I in Rome and Ospedale Grassi in Ostia (project active since 1999)
  • Ospedale Agostino Gemelli: in particular, in the Obstetrics, Oncology, Paediatric wards, Delivery Wards and Nurseries (project active since 2000)
  • CSM: Mental Health Centre of Local Healthcare Unit Roma 2 (project active since 2012)

Linguistic and cultural mediation services are provided in public offices serving a large number of migrants, especially the Prefect’s Office, the City Registry, the Public Relation Offices, the Migration Desk, Municipal Authorities’ Offices and Employment Centres.


In this domain, intercultural mediation is aimed at favouring communication between migrants and helping their integration in the receiving society, helping public services to overcome difficulties in communication with foreigners and contributing to equal opportunities for those foreigners enjoying citizenship rights. Indeed, public administration may be organised very differently from PA in the migrants’ country of origin: this often makes it very difficult to access public services effectively, bring about discrimination and affect equal opportunities.

Intercultural mediators may also work in schools at all levels, in particular at the compulsory education level, the one counting the largest number of migrants. Intercultural mediators act as facilitators of communication between students and teachers and teachers and families.

At school, intercultural mediators act as consultants in the school management bodies (class boards, teachers’ boards, school boards) and promote intercultural education activities; they also participate in parent-teacher meetings and organise intercultural education activities in schools.


In schools offering courses of Italian as a foreign language, the presence of intercultural mediators is necessary to assist Italian teachers, especially in the initial phases, when it is extremely difficult to manage different linguistic and communication codes.

Intercultural mediation services are particularly useful in courthouses (both ordinary and juvenile courts), houses of detention (especially juvenile), First Reception Centres (CPA), and foster homes hosting minors.


Intercultural mediators may help judges and house of detention staff (social workers, psychologists, educators, etc.) and support them especially when dealing with unaccompanied foreign minors. Intercultural mediators may take part in interviews, court hearings, and other situations where minors held in custody or detention have difficulties in making themselves understood and understand judiciary authorities.


In CPAs, intercultural mediators help operators in the first phases of reception, enabling understanding of precautionary measures and the ways they are implemented, but also during the migrants’ stay in the centre, supporting educators, psychologists, and social workers when dealing with foreign minors.

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