After 7 years of neglect following the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, the former Olympic Village [locally known as “Ex-MOI”] was occupied on March 30th, 2013 to tackle the housing emergency lived by the refugees in the city of Turin. There are currently around 600 people of over 21 different nationalities living at the Ex-MOI, all of which with a recognized refugee status. To this day, this is the largest, stablest and most important occupation for refugees that has ever taken place in Italy.
Supposedly designed and built using the latest ecological and sustainable design criteria and with an overall cost of over 100 million Euros, the building complex was finished in 20 months to host athletes from all over the world. Short after the Olympic Games, serious structural problems revealed the inaptitude of the building complex to be converted to other uses. Many of the municipality plans, among which a housing project, failed and the area was left in a state of abandon.
Between 2011 and 2013 many of the asylum seekers who arrived in Italy could benefit of the ENA [North Africa Emergency Plan], a comprehensive integration project of the Italian government to tackle the humanitarian crisis following the turmoil in North Africa and the war in Libya. This program reinforced the SPRAR project [Services for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees], enhancing actions and funds to support refugees’ job insertion and training placements as well as providing access to public healthcare and to a dignified shelter. The ENA ended abruptly in March 2013 and many refugees ended up in the streets.
- Refugees and Migrants Solidarity Committee — The Solidarity Committee is a group of volunteers and includes students, migrants, committed citizens and social activists. It has no political affiliation nor is connected to a specific grass-root organisation or housing movement. It supported the occupation of the Ex-MOI with the aim to provide refugees with a house after they were abandoned by the government project. Since the occupation, the Committee has supported the refugees by providing medical,linguistis and legal care, creating a school within its premises, coordinating the distribution of food, furniture and other basic supplies. After a long battle, the Municipality recently granted the refugees living at the Ex-MOI a residence status which, according to Italian legislation, gives them access to public healthcare and the possibility to enrol in the employment agency. “A house belongs to who lives in it and to who occupies it” is their slogan.
“We held many meetings to discuss houw to react to the end of the government funding for the emergency in North Africa. We decided to occupy the MOI independently from authorities and local Ngos to provide refugees with a shelter and the possibility to be self-sufficient without other compromise. At first, we assigned the rooms according to the people who would come to our meetings and the most needy. The first building was occupied to host families with children and women alone. However, many more people than expected came during and after the occupation to ask for shelter. we occupied three other buildings and had to mix ethnic groups as well as men and women. The increasing number of applicants did not allow us to respect the original plans. At the beginning the refugees thought we worked for the government and complained because we could not host everyone, then they understood that we are independent activists and the relationship changed.” — Member of the Solidarity Committee for Refugees and Migrants
I left Gambia to work in Lybia, but when the war broke out, I was jailed for not having the proper documents. In jail I got the opportunity to escape and got on a boat with other African foreign workers. After an appalling boat trip I reached Lampedusa [Italy], where the Italian authorities granted me the status of refugee and advised me to come to Turin, at the Ex-MOI, because there I would have good opportunities to find shelter and support. I took a train and went straight to the Ex-MOI, which was very easy to rech because everybody I asked knew about it. As soon as I arrived, I me tone of my former jail mates. I like it here. This village is the real “Africa United”. In Africa we kill each other, here we live together. — 19 year old inhabitant of the Ex-MOI.
A house belongs to who lives in it. Land belongs to everyone.
There is no country far away if there is a friend nearby. Immigration is everywhere!
Sunset shot from the rooftop at Via Madonna dell Salette, the latest building to be occupied to host refugees. The rooftop offers an amazing sunset view over the mountain chain that surrounds the city of Turin, while the satellite dish brings its inhabitants closer to home. On the wall, the logo of the solidarity committee: a snail with a closed fist as the shell.
This five-storey bulding was occupied in 2014 following the overcrowding of the Ex-MOI building complex. It currently hosts around 60 people. There is a batroom every two rooms and a basic cooking area on every floor. The internal yard has been converted into a vegetable garden and chill out area. Formerly a nursing home managed by the local Catholic Parish, the building is today self-managed by its dwellers. However, the ownership remains of the Church, who also take care of the electricity and other utilities bills.

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