Donnerstag, 20. Dezember 2012

An angry shout from the Mineo Cara (Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers): "We want freedom, not the food and lodgings which are given to prisoners"

by Leone Venticinque, for the Citizens' Committee of the Mineo, Caltagirone Support Group. And so this most recent manifestation which has been carried out since the Mineo Cara (Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers) became fully operative, brings the total number of protests to nine. Is it a lot or a few? What is certain is that the continuation of the root causes of what is leading to these protests has not been addressed by those who, as it would seem, have so many more important things to do than listen to the legitimate reasons for this disaster which has been created by those who are being paid to run the structure. Just to make it clear, here not only do we intend those running the centre but also those who are paid to prevent rather than comment on the problems when they become visible and can no longer be hidden.
Up until today, the migrants have been referred to as "guests", but if we care enough to actually listen to their point of view, the more appropriate term would probably be "semi- detainees". I am using this term because even those in prison have the right to food and lodgings yet it still means they are prisoners. In this case, the refugee asylum seekers receive food and lodgings but yet this does not take away from the fact that they have to wait months or even years to have the freedom to leave the Cara and their living conditions remain indefinite all the time it takes for their asylum applications to be processed, at which stage many of them will be returned to their countries of origin. The only liberty available to them at the moment is that of being able to mix with illegal employment rings or to prostitute themselves on the streets.

Having received information via the Catania Anti- Racist Network, as a member of the Citizens' Committee of the Mineo, Caltagirone Social Group, I arrived at the manifestation at about 13h00. It had started an hour previously. I had to find a way to get round the road blocks which had been put up by the police. Their function being to prevent anyone- especially the media- from having access to the area which had been declared dangerous and a risk to public safety. Amongst the hundreds of protesters which lined the main Catania- Gela road, heading in the direction of Palagonia, I met some people who I had already met through the legal advice service which is offered for appeals against asylum rejections and also at other events such as the meeting organised two days ago by the Catania Anti- Racist Network in front of the Cara and similar, organised by others who are active in the fight for human rights. The migrants accepted my presence and so I felt at ease to move amongst them. There are some videos showing conversations and short interviews in English. Some of the migrants openly show their faces while others choose to remain anonymous in order to protect their identity should there be any negative repercussions.

After walking several kilometres, during which obstacles of all types were encountered along the way, the procession stopped at the Ramacca- Palagonia junction. Here, the protesters split up into smaller groups which proceeded to block the main street in both directions, as well as all the slip roads leading to the flyover. The road block held out as long as was necessary for the press and the media to arrive and hear the heated declarations of the protesters. As far as possible, I tried to stay faithful to my beliefs as far as, not only the forces of order were concerned, but also for the drivers and the workers who had found themselves blocked, unable to go anywhere- neither forward nor backward for who knows how long, and the obvious exasperation which the situation generated. Nonetheless, the resentment felt on both sides did not degenerate into fighting. If this had been the case, the protesters were ready with stones, bottles and iron bars in their fists, ready to get their point of view across by any means.

In the middle of the afternoon, many hours after the protest began, the first television journalists arrived to report on what was going on and to interview those in charge. It should have gone some way to satisfying those who for too long have suffered and continue to suffer the institutionalised indifference and the superficial interest of the opportunists who in each and every asylum seeker see a source of money which is to be kept and held in one place for as long as possible, because otherwise for the entire Caltagirone district, "without the Cara there would have been total disaster."

For the rights of the asylum seekers who once again today have shown their enormous courage; for a land which does not accept being stuck with the image of a miserable parasitism that others want to tarnish it with but one which is still ready to bet on its own ability to produce and to live from dignified work; in the name of the Citizens' Committee of the Mineo Caltagirone Social Group, I will be ready tomorrow as in the near future to report on the will and the actions of the asylum seekers fighting for their rights, the only way to make themselves heard by the institutions responsible. I stand against all outspoken and hushed up propaganda attempts made by all of those who exploit be they large or small. May 2013 be the year in which the Cara closes, substituted finally by a real type of reception present in all boroughs in the Caltagirone area, with manageable numbers based on concepts of solidarity and integration as well as providing the possibility of creating jobs especially for those who live in this part of Sicily.