Sonntag, 18. Dezember 2011

18th December 2011: Regional Demonstration outside the Mineo CARA (Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers)

Several Sicilian associations participated in the demonstration organised by the Catania Anti-Racist Network, including: Officina rebelde, Cobas, qui mineo, Centro Astalli Catania, Palermo Anti-Racist Forum, NO MOUS movement, Storie Migranti. The demonstration, which was carried out with the migrants themselves, was a mixture of both moments of conviviality and music, and also of confrontation whilst speaking out against the living conditions and treatment of those within the Centre.

The Mineo CARA opened last March under the pretext of a migratory emergency which was created to justify large-scale financial operations. It is one of the places where economic and political interests become intertwined, claims Antonio Mazzeo, a journalist whose work speaks of the Mineo CARA as an Italian disgrace, "One of the main points of contention was that of the hoarding up of favours by the local cooperative. You can bet that with the Mineo business, the President of the Province managed to take a substantial number of votes away from the governor of Sicily." The State gives the companies involved in the running of the centre €25 per immigrant per day. Considering that the capacity of the centre is the largest in Europe, it is easy to imagine the number of consortiums and companies who are eager to be part of such rich pickings. Almost 1,400 immigrants live in the centre. They come from the Maghreb Region of north Africa, sub- Sahara, Bengal, and Pakistan. Women and men are placed in promiscuous conditions. There are many different families but no unaccompanied minors. The last of the arrivals, who were from Somalia, ran away last month.
  At the moment, migrants are arriving from other "centres" in Sicily. During July and August (17th August was when the last boat that arrived from Lybia- excluding the two that came in November and December) potential asylum seekers were placed in hotel-like structures without any legal assistance whatsoever. It now seems as if all of those structures are being emptied with the intention of concentrating the migrants at the Mineo CARA. Just last week, over 40 people arrived.
In March however, in addition to the Tunisians who had arrived in Lampedusa, people who had already begun their asylum seeking process in other Italian Centres were transferred to the Mineo CARA. This seems a highly illogical choice in the wake of an emergency. It is absurd to move people to Sicily when they have already started their applications in other parts of Italy as it results in fewer places for new arrivals. This has to make you think about what is really going on.
Previously there were two Territorial Commissions in the Mineo Centre, now there is only one which is affiliated to the management company Sisifo and according to the Catania Anti- Racist Network, administers lots of rejections. Migrants also denounce the absence of interpreters who speak their language and the fact that some of them are corrupt.
There was a case where some migrants reported a Bangledeshi interpreter (see link above) for corruption. ALL the migrants involved had their applications REJECTED. Furthermore,  the Territorial Commissions (including the one in Syracuse), instead of speeding up the requests for asylum, draw out the whole evaluation process and reject the majority of applications. This means the immigrants have no choice but to stay even longer periods in the centre waiting for the appeal.

The fact that the Centre is so isolated (Mineo is the nearest town, but it is 11km away- uphill!) and that the requests for asylum take so long make the situation worse and impact negatively on the psychological state of the migrants. And, despite the fact they have held many demonstrations and protests, the situation hasn't changed. Regulations state that the CARA should provide for its "guests" (what a term to use!) for a maximum of 35 days. Yet it has become an enormous arbitrary detention centre.

Laura Verduci for the Palermo Anti-Racist Forum