Montag, 28. April 2014

The Everlasting Emergency: Centres for Extraordinary Reception (CAS)

As we have argued time and time again, the emergency management of migration is not solely aggravated by the alarming state of reception in governmental centres and sorting structures: we must add to this the issue of informal centres, the so-called Centres for Extraordinary Reception (CAS), whose number is growing, and whose reception more often than not is only limited to food and accommodation.

CAS centres include a number of structures (hotels, B&B, private housing, rentals), whose managers have signed a contract with the local prefecture, by which he or she pledges to offer a reception service, against a daily fee of 30-35€ per migrant.

CAS centres are only too often completely unprepared in terms of reception, and we can track one of the causes for this situation back to the very first rule within such an agreement, that is, that the sole essential requirement is room availability. It matters very little that that the individual who will take care of the reception itself has little to no experience or particular inclination for this activity, and that the quality of the reception will probably be tailored exclusively towards profit, and not people (a profit which is higher the lower the costs per migrant are).  After all, the priority of economic reasons can be found anywhere within the first reception business!

This lack of preliminary conditions is followed by the lack of a control system for such structures: even if geared only towards an emergency situation, CAS centres are often those structures where asylum seekers spend the entire period of their stay (until their hearing at the local commission), deprived of fundamental services such as legal and socio-psychological support.

It is therefore interesting to analyse which are the juridical premises of this type of reception, which is based on the agreements between private managers and the Prefecture.

The most recently updated measure by the Ministry for Internal Affairs is a letter dated 20 March 2014, whose subject was “Inflow of foreign citizens following further disembarkations in Italian shores”, which is the key to understanding the reality of CAS centres, and the nature of the agreements.

This letter illustrates a further emergency plan, in addition to the one which had previously activated 115 structures, for a total of 5,500 places. Because of the high number of arrivals, and because of the necessity to “distribute said foreigners nationwide”, the letter demands that Prefectures should find structures in their respective territories, for a total of 2,400 places. The deadline for the duration of said agreements is June 30 2014. 

Playing by ear as per usual, in case the deadline is not extended, we will witness for the second time to  a repetition of the end of the North African Emergency, when thousands of people suddenly ended up on the streets.

Attached to the letter is a provisional scheme for the distribution plan (to be modified only according to local necessities), which calls for 40 places for each of the 59 Italian provinces, except for the Sicilian ones.

The agreements of reception centres expect:

  • Administration management (control and verification of the structure’s full functionality and efficiency)
  • Generic assistance to persons (rules of behaviour within the structure, laundry facilities, generic assistance to persons)
  • Environmental hygiene
  • Provision of meals

  • Supply of goods (bed and mattress sets, products for personal hygiene, clothing, daily pocket money of €2.50, telephone card of €15 upon admittance).

  • Services for integration (information on immigration norms and on the rights and duties of a foreign citizen, linguistic and cultural support)
This list already shows how the control and verification of a structure’s full functionality and efficiency are entrusted to the structure’s own manager, and how legal support for asylum seekers is only blandly guaranteed.

The agreements with CAS centres are only apparently structured in form: in substance, they are completely insufficient at guaranteeing an adequate reception, for they are lacking in a number of essential services (such as legal assistance for asylum seekers), as well as they leave everything to the  manager’s discretion, since there is no control system over services rendered.

Therefore in substance it happens that there is no guarantee for a collaboration with local services or with cultural mediation specialists, nor is there a guarantee for legal,  socio-psychological and health support: there are only operators who provide meals and “guard” the structure.

Reading through the agreements, there is a clear demand for the verification of a structure’s adequacy by the Prefecture upon the start of reception activities, yet there are no indications concerning who, when and how this verification ought to be carried out.

A further provision allows the Prefecture the “faculty of calling for verifications at any time by its own appointees, aimed at ascertaining the correct fulfillment of services”. However, like for governmental centres, there are de facto no systematic control structures, nor have any resources been indicated to organise them. Therefore control over said informal structures is left to the discretion of each Prefecture, and it is often carried out (if it is carried out at all) only on the basis of grave violations as reported by humanitarian organisations.

There are different questions and reflections which may arise out of this “analysis”, yet the very first question is why, when there are 6,500 places available as accorded by the SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees), ought this kind of emergency reception be financed, when it almost completely lacks any planning or professionalism, it does not guarantee any respect for the rights of migrants, and it keeps on feeding a frail and inadequate asylum system.

Giovanna Vaccaro
The Borderline Sicilia Editorial Department

Translated by Angela Paradiso