"I'm not sure how the situation started, but I know there was half and hour of chaos between eight and nine guys and the military," Tahir, a Pakistani, one of the Centre's residents told us. The outbreak began all of a sudden following the missed appointment of the Commission, whose job it is to advance the procedures surrounding the issuing of documents for residents in the Centre. Tahir continued, "We had eaten and everything was ok, but then the Commission never showed up and fighting broke out. Now everything is ok and the Commission have arrived."
The Centre in Mineo can take up to 1,800 people, but currently there are approximately 2,700. This is almost a thousand extra. In the last 24 hours, after the boats once again started arriving on Lampedusa, a further 400 migrants have arrived and another group is due to arrive this evening.
The migrants become referred to as "guests". They are people who are asking for rights and recognition of permits of stay on humanitarian grounds, but sometimes, often, they are forced to wait excessive lengths of time due to the bureaucracy. Tahir, for example, has been waiting for a year and ten months for his documents, "I don't know why they don't arrive, they tell me I have to keep waiting, so here I am." And according to Riccardo Campochiaro, one of the lawyers assisting the asylum seekers in Mineo there are at least three reasons why it is necessary to wait so long for the much sought after documents. The first is due to the sheer volume of migrants in the system, "A Centre with over 2,000 people simply isn't manageable" says the lawyer. The second reason is that there is only one Commission to deal with all of the applications, the sub-Commission of Mineo. Finally, there has been a hold up in the system for about a month and a half as the result of a government intervention. "It was decided," explains Campochiaro, "that all the migrants who had arrived as a result of the situation in Lybia should be issued with a year long humanitarian permit. There are approximately 700 migrants in Mineo who fall into this category." It could appear that the government initiative, which has only recently been introduced, could go some way to help facilitate the whole procedure of issuing permits, but nonetheless it is just another bureaucratic stumbling block as it is necessary to submit an application to the police headquarters in order for any document to be issued and, "only ten people a day can be seen. Considering how many applicants there actually are, there's still quite a bit of time left to wait," concluded Campochiaro.