A big day of celebrations is underway today at the Mineo CARA (Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers) to mark World Refugee Day. Illustrious and refined guests have been invited for an event entitled, "From emergency to integration". Those present will include the highest authorities of the State: from the Prefecture to the Police Headquarters; the Bishop of Caltagirone; the Head of the Civil Protection, in addition to representatives from the University, the judiciary and the various organisations that work with the migrants.
The "man in charge", Giuseppe Castiglione, will lead the morning discussion, which will then be followed by the showing of the film Mare Nostro, with performances and music continuing into the evening. Each "partner" will be able to "invite 5 guests of his/her choice to the evening event". They must, however, be named in advance in order to prepare access passes.
"The Astalli Centre, Catania declines the invitation maintaining it inopportune to participate in celebrations (however important they may be) without allowing the residents of the CARA to have access to an ongoing listening and orientation service, as has been repeatedly requested. The Astalli Centre, being able to boast more than thirty years' experience of assistance and on- going support to migrants, hopes therefore that in the imminent future we will be granted the authority to serve also your residents."
Since the president of the province was nominated "acting body" and the Sisifo Consorzio obtained the management contract to run the CARA, the volunteers of the Astalli Centre have been denied access. Up until last September, the Ministry for the Interior had previously allowed them to run a "listening service" within the Village. Castiglione however, claimed that it was not a valid service and when a new request for it to continue was made, he rejected it.
The activity of "socio-legal orientation" must, according to him, be carried out with a public contract by the Sisifo Consortium, without any intermediaries. It was nonetheless agreed that the Astalli Centre would, with the agreement the director of the Consortium, have the possibility to provide volunteers. But all requests sent by Astalli have fallen on deaf ears, despite the fact that a few months earlier an agreement was signed by both parties.
The Astalli Centre would provide such a service free of charge. It is therefore not possible that the choice to exclude the Centre from having access to the CARA could be motivated by economic reasons. Are we therefore dealing with a purely bureaucratic situation? Was it preferable to avoid having too many eyes and ears to see and listen to what was going on? All of these hypotheses are possible, given that, despite the difficulties in having access to the structure, even for the press, reports of serious incidents occurring within the Centre continue to circulate (scams, prostitution, deaths in suspicious circumstances). On the other hand, it is difficult to understand how it is possible to celebrate the residents' integration when the structure where they are living is so physically isolated from the world around it (the nearest town being 10km away), therefore being unable to offer daily opportunities to mix with locals or look for work in the area, as is offered by SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees).
Today, furthermore, outside of the Village fences, in front of the entrance, there will be a joining of different ethnicities, organised by the Catania Anti- Racist Network, and also a press conference. Yet, according to the Anti- Racist movement, there is little to celebrate.
The number of asylum claim rejections have reached their thousands and, even if as great a number of appeals have been made to the courts, we are facing the dangerous situation of "women and men who have lost everything, who have known bombs and persecution" being left without any international or humanitarian protection. This is why the Anti- Racist network, in the area of the national campaign Right of Choice, upholds the request of the permit on humanitarian grounds for migrants who have escaped from Lybia.
That the right to asylum, as outlined in our Constitution, has today been placed in jeopardy by a type of "judicial short circuit" denounced the Catania lawyer Giuseppe Carnabuci.
For some time now, the possibility for international migrants, residents of the CARA, who have been appealing against the rejections of their claims for international protection to have access to legal assistance funded by the State has been denied. The so-called legal aid (which is designed for those who cannot afford legal fees) has been stopped because the documents issued by the Police Headquarter's Immigration Office would not suffice to identify them. The paradox denounced by Carnabuci lies in the fact that the certificate issued by the police headquarters is a document expressly outlined by law to "give certainty of the physical identity of the individual". How is it possible therefore that it is not considered suitable to gain access to legal aid?
The Catania Bar Council, the organisation responsible for examining requests for legal aid, had suspended the service, maintaining that their documents were not valid and thereby denying the migrants of the CARA of their rights . Nonetheless, they were forced to revoke this decision due to ASGI (Association for Judicial Studies on Immigration), who were quick to contest the measure in front of TAR (Regional Administrative Tribunal).
"Whilst waiting for a decision from the administrative Tribunal it is important," adds Caranbuci, "that further restrictions are not placed upon the migrants' right to a defence, as for example may happen as a result of the elevated costs which they now have to face (more than €120) for an appeal and eventual claim in front of the Court of Appeal."