Donnerstag, 29. Oktober 2015

The business of bad welcoming in Messina

Antonio Mazzeo – Messina, city of bad welcoming. Hundreds of refugees are half-hidden in the tent city of PalaNebiolo, the former baseball pitch at Conca d'Oro-Annunziata, owned by the Messina University. Forty degrees in the shade in summer, the cold touches zero in winter. When it rains, however, it's still worse: without any drainage, the ground is covered in water and the reception centre is submerged in puddles. In the former barracks of 'Gasparro' in Bisconte, in the building generously declared to be habitable, more than 200 people are packed tightly, within 550m2 of space, the bunk beds touching each other and with an endless queue for meals and showers. A shameful building, truly disgusting, a shame and disgrace for the state institutions and local administration which does not seem able to look or listen, and which chooses, as always, not to speak.

In Messina, as at the CARA* in Mineo, the CIE** in Trapani and the camps for migrants and asylum seekers throughout Italy, the rights and duties of the reception system are ignored, denied and violated. But in some situations it is also an opportunity for profiteering by those usual suspects, the pseudo-cooperatives, businesses, fronts and non-profits out to make a profit, who exercise a smug monopoly over the management of emergency disembarkings, artificial creations of Fortress Europe, of the military-industrial complex, translational securitization and xenophobic, racist opinion leaders. After the publication by the Prefecture of Messina of its expenses data for 2013-2014, it is now a proven fact that the unwelcoming in the city of the Straits has been billed for millions by a handful of privileged businessmen engaged in 'solidarity'. From the first arrivals in the safe port of Messina in October 2013, down to 31 December 2014, the prefecture has handed over more than €3,225,000 for refugee management. The political and humanitarian failure of the measures put in place is made clear by the official statistics from the Messina police station (Questura): of the 6,800 potential asylum seekers identified in 2014 during transfers to the centres at Annunziata and Bisconte, only 283 have received their requests for international protection, that is, less than three women and men in every hundred who have landed, registered and been interned.

The trio of usual suspects
A good part of the financial resources 'invested' by the state in Messina for the management of migrants was given to a consortium led by the company Senis Hospes of Potenza, with the participation of Cascina Global Service SRL and the Consorzio Sol.Co. – both non-profit cooperative societies. According to the expenditure data from the prefecture, in the two years of 2013-14 a total €2,654,633.13 had been paid out to the consortium. (The amount awarded was actually €873,536). Specifically, the association led by Senis Hospes had been entrusted with “the management of reception services” in the period between 1 January and 31 March 2014 (amount paid €431,295.23), an operation extended again from 1 April to 20 June 2014 (€539,225.79) and a second time the following July (€169,044.84). According to the tendered contact, the triad of Senis, Cascina and Consorzio Sol.Co., took on the provision of every migrant with food, pocket money of €2.50 a day and a hygiene kit, and health care. In exchange, they received €24.33 each day for each person “hosted” in the tent city and the former barracks at Bisconte.

When, on 17 July 2014, the prefecture opened a new competition to find a 'new' management body for the provision of assistance to asylum seekers (from 1 August to 31 December 2014) it was yet again the Senis Hospes consortium which beat the competitors and obtain for its services the payment of €1,391,217.33. The 'reception' contract was renewed up to last May, when the Senis Hospes, Cascina and Sol.Co. group ceded the PalaNebiolo and Bisconte centres to the relatively unknown 'social cooperatives' ARCA and Medical of Trapani, which presented a better deal of €23.98 per day per migrant in the latest tender.

In the spending list from the Messina prefecture there is another reference to 'Migrant reception services provided c\o Centro Conca d'Oro and Caserma Gasparro-Masotto, 31 December 2014', with €39,500 transferred again to the same business association led by Senis, but presumably for clearing in the following year. Up till 31 December, the trio Senis-Cascina-Sol.Co. were not paid, as well as the receptions services for unaccompanied minors in the former IPAB* building of Fondazione Conservatori Riuniti, in the middle of Via S. Sebastiano in Messina, which was opened on 25 November 2014. At the beginning, the former IPAB*** had been destined to become a centre of very first reception for foreign citizens requesting international protection in view of the expected closure of the tent-city at Annunziata. However, following the charge that there were too many young unaccompanied minors at PalaNebiolo, hosted in situations mixed with the adults there, the prefecture, through an extraordinary measure on 31 October 2014, ordered the transferal of 93 minors to be taken by the localities of Via S. Sebastiano while Senis and Co., in the meantime were assigned the adult asylum seekers. From then on, the former IPAB***, renamed 'Centro Ahmed', notwithstanding the lack of respect for the parameters and structural standards set by the region, functioned as a centre of first reception for unaccompanied minors, with more than 200 young 'guests', refugees from ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and continental Africa. For the timeline, the prefecture of Messina provided Senis Hospes & C. with a structure for the migrant reception services situated in the borough of Fondachelli Fantina, along with the provision of €123,750 for the period 27 August to 31 December 2014.

The expenses spreadsheets by the governing authority then show a further and consistent slice of resources for migrants ended up in the hands of Cascina Global Service, a Roman society founded in 1978 by a group of university student members of 'Comunione e Liberazione' in the restaurant business and the provision of meals to schools, hospitals, etc., and represented in Messina by the businessman Benny Bonaffini. In total this comprised of €253,626.22: one part (€145,763.9) was transferred for 'temporary' custody to an economic trust for the services rendered to refugees between 9 October 2013 and 7 February 2014; the second part (€107,862.32) corresponded to compensation for the role of the management body of the tent-city centre of Annunziata between 28 November 2013 and 27 March 2014, after the custody of the centre was put out to open tender by the prefecture.

Shadows of the past
The real national giant in the management of third sector and voluntary services in the business-coops which plays the trump card (or near enough) in migrant business in Messina is the Consorzio Sol.Co., which manages a long list of social cooperatives throughout Sicily, the most notable being the Consorzio Sol. Calatino SCS, established in February 2003 by the cooperatives run in Caltragirone an Catania, and which boasts a worthy curriculum in the immigration sector: from the carrying out in 2011 of the 'legal and psychological consultation' project for unaccompanied minors in partnership with Messina council; to the management of the SPRARs**** in the councils of Caltagirone, Gela, Bronte, Vizzini, Mineo, Licodia Eubea, San Cono, San Michele di Ganzaria, Palagonia, Grammichele, Mirabella Imbaccari and Scordia; to that of the centre of very first reception in of foreign nationals in Caltanissetta; up to the co-management, since way back in 18 October 2011, of the 'Village of Oranges' in Mineo, officially converted from the former US military base of Sigonella into the largest centre for asylum seekers (CARA*) in Europe.

Senis Hospes is also one of the most accredited management bodies for CARA*, centres of very first reception, and SPRAR**** in Italy. In her investigation into the cooperative at Potenza, the journalist Raffaella Cosentino wrote some passages about the big business of reception centres, published on on 16 October 2013: “Senis Hospes of Senise (Potenza) is presided over by Camillo Aceto who, when he was vice-President of Cascina was subpoenaed for a trial in Bari on the provision of meals to hospital and school canteens, for fraud in the provision of public services”, wrote Cosentino. “The management of the CARA* at Bari Palese, a prefab construction within a military air-base established in 2008, has been the same since the centre was set up, the Lucania-based cooperative Auxilium, managed by the brothers Pietro and Angelo Chiorazzo. As with Senise, Auxilium is historically close to Cascina, where a temporary business association was founded at the centre. Along with the vice-president of Cascina, Angelo Chiorazzo was involved in the same judicial investigation in Bari in which Camillo Aceto was charged, who in turn was a former member of the board of Auxilium. Chiorazzo was also charged with fraud of public administration to the first degree...” As it happens, in 22 January 2013 the prefecture of Caltanissetta awarded the management of all the centres in Pian del Lago to a group of temporary business associations led by Auxilium, for a contract lasting three years. The award was made, however, after the cancellation of the tender competition won at first by a group led by the cooperative society Domus Caritatis, and which included Senis Hospes, the Cascina Global Service and the Consorzio Sol. Calatino, due to a lack of requirements.

The trio of businesses has however been abundantly reformed with the disputable tendering of €97m for the management of the CARA*  at Mineo, completed on 24 April 2014 by the Consorzio Calatino 'Terra d'Accoglienza' (Land of Welcoming). The tender competition, in fact, was won by the temporary association along with Senis, Cascina and Sol.Co., the social cooperative consortium Sisifo of Palermo (LegaCoop), the construction company Pizzarotti & C. Spa of Parma (the landlords of Mineo) and the local committee of the Italian Red Cross of Catania. The court of auditors has charged that “the contract for the management of CARA* of Mineo has altered the characters of the public agreement as outlined in Article 15 of Law n. 241/1990”. More serious still, is the opinion of the national anti-corruption association, led by Raffaele Cantone, according to which the principles of 'competition, proportionality, transparency, impartiality and economic viability' would be violated at Mineo. The management of the CARA* has also been criticised by business and politics investigators in Rome. In the second order given by Capitoline magistrate, Mineo was described expressly as relating to 'preventative collusion, consistent with financial agreements for predetermined economic subjects who would win the tender”, as well as "fraudulent conduct, namely in order to agree on the content of the tenders so as to favour company groups in which La Cascina was a participating member.” As commented, in the order for the remanding of Mafia Capitale Bis issued last June, Cascina Global Service is cited 167 times. The investigations, in particular, have focused on the arrest of four of its managers: the delegated administrator Salvator Menolascina; the vice-president Francesco Ferrare; Carmelo Parabita, a member of the board; and the CEO of the the coop La Cascina, Domenico Cammisa. According to the magistrate, the four leaders are meant to have committed “manifold instances of corruption and bid-rigging over three years, 2011-2014, demonstrating a strong tendency towards criminality.” In particular, the ends of the relationship between the managers with Luca Odevaine are under investigation, member of the board for the national coordination of the reception of asylum seekers and holders of international protection, a member of all the commissions, which since 2011 have awarded tendered contracts to the CARA* of Mineo. “Odevaine has a long-lasting and close bond with the Cascina of an illegal character” the investigators have written, hypothesising that there has been a gift, for the benefit of strong advice, of a monthly 'prize' of €10,000, then increased to €20,000, presumably in return for awarding the bid. Following the juridical earthquake which struck the catering giant, the Department for Protective Measures of the Court of Rome placed Cascina Global Service under judiciary administration on 27 July 2015, by decree n. 102.

Don't worry, I'll take care of migrant transportation
Returning to Messina, it can now be emphasised how the 15% of total funds from the provision of migrant services (€462,992) was assigned to the so-called economic trust in 2013-2014, a method for the simplified acquisition of goods and services by public administrations allowed by Italian law “in relation to contracts of modest value” and “urgency of provision.” To be specific, the rules apply to cases in which the provision of goods and services is worth no more than €40,000, the director of the process can grant the sum directly to an economic operator, chosen at discretion, so long as it avoids obvious splitting up of the sum. For larger sums, in fact, the granting can occur only with respect to the principles of 'transparency, rotation and equal treatment', through the prior consultation of at least five different economic operators, and after the publication of a list of specifics by the body tendering out the contract.

As we have seen, the prefecture utilised the economic trust for the granting to Cascina Global Service of the first phase of the emergency reception system in Messina. Then, in fact, it became the model system for the attribution – to the same, continual body – of the operation of the transportation of refugees from Messina to the other centres of first and second reception across Sicily and other regions of Italy. A reading of the database entries offers a real picture the dehumanising system of deportation of migrants and asylum seekers, adopted by various governments who have taken turns leading the country. Women and men in flight from the horrors of war and global crimes are taken from Messina by bus to Piedmont, Lombard and Friuli Venetia Giulia, others to the CARA*  and CIE**  in Lazio, Campania, Apulia and the Marches. On 22 November 2013, the 'guests' were raced around a strenuous tour of Sicily, to Agrigento, Favara, Castelvetrano and Caltagirone. On 12 September 2014, after the interminable disembarking operations, the migrants were taken first to the centres at Annunziata and Bisconte, then to Fondachelli Fantina and finally to Aragona.

The monopolistic agents of the transportation of migrants, the transport company Michele Cucinotta & C. SAS, are based in in the village of Larderia, Messina. For its benefit, in only 13 months they have been transferred 92 instalments comprising a total of €299,266 (the awarded sum was €291,706). On the prefecture's site there are no particulars given regarding the number of buses hired or the number of 'passengers' on each one, but only the dates and the journeys made.
The most taxing journeys are those carried out immediately after Christmas 2013 for Roma-Alba Adriatica, Teramo, San Bendetto del Tronto, Perugia and Bresso, costing a total €36,400; that of 28 July 2014 for Settimo Torinese (€15,525); for Gorizia (€14,000) on 18 February; those of 7 December for the police station of the Guardia di Finanza in Napoli, the Palermo airport Punta Raisi, and the port of Augusta in Messina (€11,400); for Naples and Pescara on 20 September (€9,250); and from Pozzallo to Comiso airport and Messina on 2 August (€7,100).

For the transferrals to the centre in Pozzallo, on 1 June 2014, Michele Cusinotta & Co. SAS received €6,500; €6,300 for going to Naples on 24 March; €5,875 for Palermo on 4 July. To the port of Augusta on 4 January, 22nd May and 7 June 2014 they factored for the first trip €4,250, €3,600 for the second and €4,500 for the third. The following 16 July, for traversing the straits of Messina, from the port of Reggio Calabria to the centre in Conca d'Oro-Annunziata, they were paid a 'modified' number of €2,400. Fortunately less was spent on the transferal of migrants from the port of Messina to PalaNebiolo: €880 on 5 May; €800 on 17 April, and again on 20 and 22 September.

Economic trusts, finally, were transferred the following funds: for the hiring of portable toilets for some of the disembarkings at the Colapesce harbour, €11,100 in total for the benefit of Milae Medical SNC of La Rosa Ferdinando; for the unloading and assembling furniture at the barracks of Gasparro Bisconte, €1,500, to the company Tecnoimpianti Minissale Cosimo; for the purchase of mattresses for PalaNebiolo, €1,995, to the company Gitto Antonio; and for the installing electrics in the scandalous tent-city, €3,172 to Mastronardo Placido Electrical Systems. 

*CARA – Centro di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo: Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers
**CIE – Centro di Identificazione ed Espulsione: Immigration Detention Centre
***IPAB – Istituto pubblico di assistenza e beneficenza: Public Institute for Assistance and Charity
****SPRAR – Sistema di protezione per rifugiati e richiedenti asilo: protection facilities for asylum seekers and refugees

Translation: Richard Braude