Mutual Learning Programme

Milan – Athens – Ljubljana

In May, we responded to the invitation of the Independent Workers Union of Slovenia, the Municipality of Ljubljana and the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, which are partners in the UnionMigrantNet (UNM) and Cities Together for the Integration project. We joined them in the Mutual Learning Programme.

Together with representatives of the Government Office of the Republic of Slovenia for the Support and Integration of Migrants, the Employment Service of Slovenia, a representative for unaccompanied minors and a member of the immigrant community, we began to uncover the mosaic of immigrant integration in northern Italy.

Our journey began in Milan. In the late afternoon, we met colleagues from Greece and Italy at the headquarters of the CISL Milano Metropoli trade union. At the opening meeting, the representative of the Italian trade union CISL, Roberta Vaia, and the representative of the Independent Workers Union of Slovenia, Sonja Šarac, spoke about the labour rights of immigrants. The latter presented the Guide for Migrant Workers, Asylum Seekers and Refugees, created as part of the UNM project with the collaboration of illustrator and comic artist Ciril Horjak.

Vodič po delavskih pravicah

Representatives of the municipalities of Athens and Ljubljana, Melina Deskalakis and Tanja Geršak, spoke about the situation of immigrants in each city, and Jure Gombač from the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts presented the immigration issue in numbers based on research.

I presented the educational programmes available to immigrants in Slovenia.

 Life card

The second day of the visit to Milan began on the municipality’s premises, where we learned about the integration process in the Lombardy region, the capital city of which is Milan. We were joined by project manager Mercedes Miletti from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). In the afternoon, we visited the integration house, which accommodates people with international protection.

As a novelty, I would mention the so-called life card, an application in which experts from various fields enter an individual’s progress in the integration process in multiple areas: housing issues, education and employment. All this is coordinated by the administrator, the so-called case manager.

An interesting example is the vegetable laboratory intended for female immigrants with small children. Women take care of the gardens while being helped by a nanny who takes care of their children there.

Training for an independent living

On the third day, we visited the Chamber of Commerce in Milan, where we spoke with representatives of trade unions, the Chamber of Commerce and the municipality and participants involved in the LabourINT programme.


LabourINT is a pilot project of UMN aimed at learning the general and professional language, active citizenship and training for a specific profession. With the region’s needs in mind, they implemented a programme for bakers, ice cream makers, salespeople and construction workers. After completing the course, the participants joined a three-month training, which is part of the educational programme. The immigrants do not necessarily attend the programme only once; some attend it several times, as they need more time to learn the language. Half of the participants got a job after completing the training.

In the afternoon, we continued our journey to Pordenone.

 Together for a successful entry into the labour market

Pordenone is a city in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which, due to ups and downs in the economic field, is forced to introduce new approaches constantly. It is known for its textile industry, mechanisation (Zanussi) and food industry (Locatelli). Municipal and regional institutions, as well as employers, are aware of the importance of the cooperation of various stakeholders in ensuring a qualified workforce for successful performance in the global economic market.

On the fourth day, representatives of the municipality, the social work centre, the employment service, educational institutions and non-governmental organisations presented us with the challenges they face. In the afternoon, we visited the T-ESSERE sewing room and shop, where immigrants from Asian and African countries create bags, purses, change purses, etc. We then visited the OSF Foundation, where we witnessed a wide range of vocational training programmes and a residential community for unaccompanied minors, which operates alongside the school.

The PIPOL programme for immigrants made a memorable impression on me. In addition to learning the general language, it also offers a module on safety at work and a module on mathematical and logical basics, which are also crucial for independent engagement in society.

With us and among us


We spent the fifth day in Trieste. At the morning consultation, the focus was on the field of employment: integration and social inclusion of immigrants in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. We visited the housing units for unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers in the afternoon.

The organisers emphasised the importance of “dispersed integration”: both asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors are accommodated in smaller housing units scattered throughout the city. This way, they can take care of themselves and integrate more quickly. Immigrants live with us and among us. It is essential that they are not pushed to the fringes and that they are from the beginning part of the society that they themselves co-create.

 Diversity and interculturality

Representatives of the organisation ANOLF accompanied us on our journey from Milan to Trieste. The latter was established in 1989 under the auspices of the CISL trade union. Its purpose is to protect immigrants, help their integration, strengthen interculturality and create a diverse and open society. Intercultural mediators also work within ANOLF, helping immigrants and the majority population bridge differences.

Konferenca Ljubljana

Educational programmes intended (also) for immigrants are created together with employers based on the labour market needs. Employers are aware that integration is a two-way process. Mistakes arising from different cultural backgrounds are tolerated. In the initial phase of training, a tutor or mentor accompanies the people while working at their new workplace and guides them until they acquire the necessary skills and competencies. Often the tutor or mentor is an intercultural mediator.


All the time, our Italian colleagues emphasised the importance of the participation of various stakeholders in the integration process of immigrants. In the integration itself, it is essential to respect human dignity so that an individual is allowed to take care of their survival. Therefore, it is crucial to empower people to join the labour market actively, become independent and improve their living conditions.

How and where

On 2 June, the participants of the Mutual Learning Programme within the UnionMigrantNet and Cities Together for the Integration project presented our observations about the differences and opportunities in Italy and Slovenia at the national conference held in the City Hall in Ljubljana.

No country has a perfect system. But, perhaps most importantly, we are constantly striving to improve. We live in a time of rapid changes. These regulate the flow of life, shape society and contribute to successful integration.

Katja Potočnik Nusdorfer (, Cene Štupar AEC


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Published by Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (SIAE), Šmartinska 134a, SI-1000 Ljubljana | Editor-in-chief: Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (E: | Editor: Ana Peklenik (E: | Other members of the editorial board: Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc, dr Nataša Potočnik, Directress of SIAE, dr Tanja Možina, Tanja Vilič Klenovšek, MSc and dr Tanja Rupnik Vec | Computer solution: Franci Lajovic (T: 01 5842 555, E: | Translation/proofreading: Mesto znanja, izobraževanje in svetovanje za osebno rast, Petra Cvek, s. p.  | Design: Larisa Hercog | Corrective reading: Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc, and Mateja Pečar | W: