Mittwoch, 29. Juli 2015

Caltanissetta: At Villa Amedeo, meeting the new residents of the CAS on Via Niscemi

 We continue with out monitoring outside the welcome centres in the province of Caltanissetta. The choice of monitoring outside the centres is a direct consequence of the authorisation by the prefecture, which includes conditions which we find unacceptable and in contrast with our association's primary aim to safeguard asylum seekers' rights.
Thus last week I met with residents at the Extraordinary Welcome Centre (CAS) situated in Via Niscemi, next to the public park of 'Villa Amedeo.'
We visited the centre in question last year and found a very critical situation. We spoke about the centre again following a protest by the residents last January.

CAS on Via Niscemi has been open since 2014, housed within a building owned by the Ministry of Telecommunications, which was given over for use by the welcoming system. Since then it has been managed by a cooperative called 'Vivere Insieme' (which also manages the CAS housed in the former IPAB complex in San Cataldo), which originally operated with the prefecture's backing. After the contract was put out to tender it was constituted into a temporary business association (ATI) along with all the other managers of CAS in the province.
There were over 20 asylum seekers from the centre present at the meeting, and they immediately began to list the major problems through which they live every day. First of all they showed us that their toothpaste had expired. Some of the tubes, in truth, did not have a date of expiry, but in one case where there was a date, it was from 2006.

They then talked about the food served there, described as gone off and not enough. In particular, they said that in the mornings they are served watered down milk and sometimes even this has gone off. They described the bread as 'like stone'.
They have made several attempts to complain about being served inedible food, some of which turned into actual protests outside the centre, but it was all to no avail. Now, when they are continue to ask those responsible to make some changes, the answer they're given is that whoever isn't content with the food can leave the centre, given that there are hundreds of asylum seekers waiting to receive welcoming services.
This 'intimidating' mode of operating adopted to respond to complaints seems to be a deliberate practice formed within this centre (as in many others). This kind of response, according to the residents, is repeated every time some kind of problem is raised, and becomes an actual threat when those responsible ask for names and surnames of those who are making the criticisms and, noting down the names, imply that there will be negative consequences at the Territorial Commission, or that the consequence will be a long delay in waiting for the Commission hearing, or even that they will take measures to remove them from the centre. All of these would have negative repercussions on the Commission decisions.
“If you make problems, then we will make you wait longer for the Commission”, or, “I'm going to denounce you to the Commission”. These are just some of the responses which the residents have received in answer to their requests, as recounted to us.
Yet again we witnessed the modus operandi of managers who maintain their control in the centre by resorting to a petty psychology of terror, entirely at their own discretion, accountable to no one. Moreover the Italian government, despite almost entirely relying on extraordinary centres for 'first welcoming', has still not provided any systematic and functioning organisation body for their oversight. And, as the prefectures are delegated with putting the welcoming system out to tender, there is still no kind of necessary or meaningful supervision over the management of this kind of centre, run anywhere and by anyone.

What comes into play here is another peculiarity of CAS: economic accountability with a lot of scope for discretion. This derives from many of the managers of these centres, being primarily hotel entrepreneurs, managers of B&Bs and cooperatives which they have established specifically to get into the welcoming business, operating mainly for  profit and so, wherever possible, cutting the services and goods provided for in the tendered contract, without incurring any consequences, simply because they are not obliged to show how they have spent the funds which the government has provided, and which services have been guaranteed.
And so we see it is not only through offering off and inadequate food that spending can be cut and profits increased. One can also in fact cut the basic quota allowance which is distributed to the residents once a season. Clothing has never been distributed in this centre. The residents informed me that recently 40 of them (of 65 resident in the centre), after around  months of being there, have finally received shoes.
Sticking with basic consumption, the residents told me that they only have drinking water for one hour every day, the only moment in the day in which a filter for water purification is connected to the taps, which is then removed again after the hour is up.

Clearly the main cuts are those made to the personnel provided for the residents' assistance.
According to the centre's residents, the currently employed are the cleaning lady, the janitor, two Italian teachers and a social worker, who is nonetheless only there from time to time. None of the workers, including the director of the cente (currently the only person with whom the residents can ask for assistance), speak their languages, nor any mediating languages.
Apparently, until June, the centre employed a range of workers and linguistic-cultural mediators, some of whom resigned after not having been paid for months, while others resigns after having been put on forced holiday throughout Ramadan, during which the director decided there was no need for any workers to be present, save for the basic team.
Consequentially every kind of assistance is lacking: there has been any legal information, nor is there any psychological assistance.
There are, however, regular Italian lessons, two hours every day for four days a week. The rooms have space for 2, 3 or 5 people, and at the moment are extremely hot, but the director of the centre didn't want to buy any fans, and some of them have provided their rooms with fan themselves, purchased with their pocket money which is disbursed, if not punctually, in cash.
Health assistance is provided by a general doctor who comes to the building every Monday between 8.30 and 9.30am. Beyond this weekly visit, the resident tell me that there is no worker in the centre to call in case of any physical problems, and that there are no medicines in the centre, not even sterile gauze or bandages. At night there are no workers in the centre, and in case of any emergencies the residents call an ambulance.

The situation at this centre provides a good picture of practices throughout the entire system of first welcoming. This is because the logic of emergency by which the government continues to operate excludes any systematic oversight over the personnel to whom this work is entrusted, leaving plenty of space for financial speculation and organisation incompetence, always to the expense of those whom the system is meant to guarantee protection.

Giovanna Vaccaro
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation: Richard Braude