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Italian Embassy launches Argo project

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, December 14
On December 11 the Italian Embassy in Georgia launched the Argo project, which is designed to assist about 1,000 young IDPs from Abkhazia and South Ossetia hosted by Italian families in the nineties.

The project envisages creating an online database containing the CVs of the IDPs hosted by Sicilian families following the conflicts in Georgia’s breakaway regions. According to unofficial information hundreds of these young IDPs are still in touch with their “Sicilian relatives,” the Italian Embassy in Tbilisi has reported.

Argo’s aim is to continue to support these young people and facilitate them on their professional path. The database will be a navigation tool open to Italian businesses, NGOs and administrations wishing to invest or implement projects in Georgia, according to its organisers. The Argo project is funded by the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry and implemented by the Georgia-Italia Association in cooperation with the European House in Tbilisi.

“We have chosen the name Argo because, like the ship of the myth, our database will be a powerful navigation tool for those in Italy wishing to profit from the main richness of contemporary Georgia: its youth. In some way, it also reminded us of the first audacious charter flights which brought so many displaced children from Georgia to Sicily in the nineties,” Ambassador of Italy to Georgia Vittorio Sandalli said.

The Ambassador stressed the historic links between the Georgian and Italian civil societies, saying that the story of the young IDPs is “extraordinary”, because it tells a lot about the “great potential deriving from those historic links.” “The fact that we are now providing these young people, who had lost their homes, with a shelter in which to develop their projects and ideas within the European House on Freedom Square is also deeply symbolic. I hope that in this House they will feel at home,” the Ambassador stated.

Nana Chikovani and Manana Khuntsaria, the current President of the Georgia-Italia Association, who were among the first participants of this project and spent many years in Italy, spoke about their personal experience of those days. Answering The Messenger’s question, Ambassador Sandalli said that his Embassy is seeking to continue conducting a similar project as Georgia has extra refugees now who need help.

The Italian MFA has allocated 20,000 Euro for implementing this project. The youth section of the Georgia-Italia Association, recently created by some of the young IDPs, has been entrusted with the implementation of the project. For this purpose, the Italian Embassy in Tbilisi will assign them part of the space managed by Italy within the European House, a large building in Freedom Square in Tbilisi which is being refurbished by the Presidency of Georgia with the aim of transforming it into one of the main centres of cultural life in Tbilisi, hosting the cultural institutions and offices of EU Member states taking part in the project, the Italian Embassy in Georgia said.

Minister for Refugees and Resettlement Koba Suleliani attended the press conference launching the project and highly praised Italian support for Georgia's IDPs.