Donnerstag, 23. Juli 2015

Around the CARA of Mineo

The news about more people investigated for corruption and incitement of corruption related to the affairs concerning the CARA* of Mineo arrived yesterday. The notices of investigation, which have been handed over to five people of the municipal commission suspected of having promised working permits, regard the names of the mayor of Mineo and Paolo Ragusa, who is the former president of the cooperative Sol. Calatino.

Meanwhile, migrants continue to be sent to the CARA after arriving by boat as well as from other centres as if nothing has happened. The situation of overcrowding within the centre is thus implicitly accepted and established by the institutions, which do not even feel obliged to give explanations any more. In the meantime, thousands of migrants continue to struggle against the cancellation and alienation accentuated by a prolonged stay in such a place. Outside the CARA, migrants begin to stop being only numbers and are increasingly able to get to know the country in which they arrived – even though not always in the best way. We meet many of them in Catania, often with the rejection letter of the local Commission hold tight in their hands, desperately looking for a lawyer who may assist them during the court appeal and, even more, looking for someone who may listen to them for about 20 minutes.
Some of them do not hesitate to show all their frustration and mistrust towards a system that forced them into a limbo for more than a year and later sentenced over their future through an interview to which no one accompanied them with an adequate legal counseling. Many discover only at the court appeal about the importance of sharing their lived experiences – which they did not reveal to the Commission because not regarded as necessary – and of the marks they have on their own bodies, which they did not regard necessary to show during the interview and which have not been certified by any doctor. From here an exasperating and sometimes obsessive call for help and closeness to those who, instead, they find willing to help, and a gradual opening up which allows them to reveal some of the details about their life inside the CARA.

A., for example, who has been staying at the CARA for over a year, complains about an acute pain that forced him to the doctor looking for a remedy that was not the usual “OKI”, with a destroyed back after working for months on the fields: “If I do not have money I can’t do anything; I can’t either move nor send [the money] back home. With no money and no papers everybody knows which jobs you can do.” Like him, many more with whom we may never speak, and who are at the CARA without papers, are attractive merchandise for any kind of exploitation.

And still, although in the midst of such justifiable desperation, there are still some who endure and try to live together with the sense of powerlessness and the constant thought of the papers, which after months and months are still out of sight. M. arrived in Mineo after becoming full of age – he was transferred from another centre for minors where he spent his first five months in Italy. We met him outside the centre, where thanks to a flyer that has been distributed by the Antiracist Network of Catania he learns to his great disbelief about the conditions, rights and duties of who is asking for international protection and resides in a CARA. “Here I am fine, the only thing is that we are far away from any city or village. And there are really too many persons. But here it is better than in the Palaspedini and maybe even better than the place where I was staying before.”
These statements leave us quite upset, but they are confirmed also by other comrades of M. who arrived here with him after becoming 18 years old.

Others pass us by on their bicycles directed to work or to the Italian language school, or take ‘abusive’ cabs that take them to the city for five euros a ride. “I think that I will soon ask to become part of the football team”, C. tells us, “so that when we have an away-match I can move for free”. Strategies and thoughts for not losing the hope of a better future, sought with lots of determination. But how long may they last?

After having carefully read the guide for international protection that we gave him, a guy from Senegal asks us what that piece of paper is needed for. He has been inside the CARA for 18 months now; he had his hearing at the Commission a few months ago and was rejected. Hence he sought a lawyer from Catania for the court appeal, which will probably be deposited in August. After long waiting, this young Senegalese man wants to wait for obtaining a residence permit that he should get after some months following the deposition of the appeal, for then leaving the CARA and travelling to Germany. He knows that the risk is to be sent back to Mineo, but nonetheless “c'est la chance”.
Before crossing the Mediterranean Sea he was in Libya and did not choose out of his free will to travel, but was forced to embark on a boat to Italy.  There are many things he doesn’t understand regarding the reception he received. He thought he was travelling towards a better country, but had to reconsider this point. Inside the CARA there are no guaranteed medical examinations as well as no clothes, which he had to search in the garbage. The waiting times are extremely long and in the meantime he didn’t receive any kind of papers. After the rejection he was forced to leave Mineo and to sleep on the street until the court appeal.
He confusedly refers to the reasons why people have the right for international protection, mentioning mainly the war, and he can’t explain himself why, considering that in his country there is a war going on, he wasn’t granted protection. Even less he understands why he needs to go to a lawyer, when usually people who kill, rob, or act against the law seek lawyers, while he himself didn’t commit any of this.

He doesn’t understand the utility of the mini-guide on international protection, which we gave him, because also others before us explained him his rights – but despite all this he sees that everything stays the same, no one acts in favor of changing things. He says that we should be the ones who change the situation, because if they protest themselves the Commission will punish them through a rejection.
At some point of our conversation, moved by all the frustration for all what he is going through, he says that it would have been better to die in the sea rather than staying in this place.

Giulia Freddi and Lucia Borghi
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

*CARA - Centro di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo: hosting/reception centre for asylum seekers

Translation: Chiara Guccione