Dienstag, 29. Dezember 2015

We Are Incapable of Welcoming

Not even at Christmas! Even now we are not capable of welcoming those in difficulty, having lost the fundamental values of civil life, of respect and of care for others.
Over the Christmas period, which is synonymous with the moment in which we are able to “lay a place at the table”, we are continuing to kill, in a deafening silence, a silence which hides the great continuation of murders carried out by a deaf Europe, one never satiated with power. A power which kills, a power which renders invisible, a power which produces irregular persons within an illegal system created out of racist and discriminatory laws.

The irregular persons of this system are the Somalians who find themselves in the streets of Agrigento, the Gambians blocked by laws in Palermo. And now, with the latest disembarkings, another 40 or so people between those at Catania and Syracuse, who add up to more and more rejections, abandoned to the wind with peaceful consequences for everyone involved.

We do not know how to welcome, and instead we are simply only able to kill, even to kill children. The estimates now speak of around 750 dead minors. But a people who do not know how to defend those who cannot defend themselves are not a civilised people.
We do not know how to welcome because we always return to the god of money, who causes deaths which no longer anger us, deaths which do not even make it to the news.

The situation is paradoxical: Sicily has become an open air hotspot, but the cracks opening up in this illegal system under the eyes of everyone appear to be seen by no one. The Eritreans in Lampedusa who protested in recent days against the impositions of Fortress Europe are still waiting on the island, the latest victims falling into the violence and psychological warfare which one undergoes within the hotspot from the time of its activation.
But from December 23th the centre has been newly packed out with the arrival of another 450 migrants in the two days before Christmas, resulting in 900 people housed in a centre which could perhaps contain up to half that number.

But the situation just gets worse, as the hotspot of Milo (Trapani) has now been activated. Indeed, for some days the old, battered CIE* – which was meant to have been converted back in June – has been transformed into a hotspot, though without the building works announced sometime back having been carried out (the building needs to be fixed up as some of the internal parts are out of use). From one day to the next the Ministry of the Interior communicated to the Prefecture and management bodies the change in designation. Thus, without any preparation, 128 people were transferred yesterday to the ex-CIE of Milo (123 men, one woman and 4 unaccompanied minors) rescued from the Canal of Sicily and landed at the port of Trapani. The migrants are of various nationalities: 40 from the Ivory Coast, 44 from Guinea, 25 from Mali, 6 from Cameroon, 4 from Senegal, 4 from Gambia, 2 from Libya and 2 from Liberia. As is obvious, the lack of preparation also affects those who work with particular criteria and rules relating to a CIE, who yesterday found that they had to put into practice new, uncertified rules in a structure without a clear juridical status.

We do not know what will happen inside the hotspot, but for sure Trapani is not Lampedusa, at least in geographical terms. We will see if the force of law operates with the same psychological pressure put in place on the island, putting into practice what Europe has asked, which is to take fingerprints with greater determination, and to carry out the selections.
We do not know how to welcome, therefore, inasmuch as Italy has been asked, and accepted, to use force against people who refuse to collaborate and give fingerprints, even against minors who, for comfort and convenience, given that there aren't enough posts for their “non-welcoming”, are frequently treated officially as if they are adults.

This “non-welcoming” and the inability to plan a model worthy of the name, and of a civilised country, is also applied to minors – even in the projects put in place by the Ministry of the Interior. We refer to project “Rainbow”, a pilot project for the highly specialised reception of unaccompanied minors. On our visit to the centre in Trabia, in the province of Palermo (accompanied by a delegate from the Prefecture of Palermo), we noted how, notwithstanding the efforts made by the managing bodies (a Temporary Business Association, bringing together the bodies “New Generation” and “Supportive Development”), the results are fairly unsuccessful. This pilot project is differentiated from other reception projects of high specialisation in Sicily because the contact person for “Rainbow” is the ministry directly, and not the Sicilian regional government – as is the case, for example, with the normal centre of San Giovanni Gemini (Agrigento), managed by the same managing bodies. The tangible difference in the fact that, in the Rainbow project, the connection is directly with the ministry is meant to be an efficient instrument for responding to the management problems verified daily in the centres connected to the regional government.

But the good will of the managing bodies is not enough. In fact we noticed in the Rainbow project everything which also takes place at the centre of San Giovanni Gemini: that the majority of the residents present do not have a named tutor; beyond this that the 40 young people who arrived at Trabia 5 months ago – while according to the project they are only meant to stay at the building for 60 days (emendable up to a maximum of 90 days) – despite having been there for more than 7 months, only received an assigned tutor (through the court at Termini Imerese) one month ago. The provision of a tutor does not have a clear procedure (not only at Trabia) and above all the timings are not certain. Furthermore at Trabia, as in other places, the order of arrival of the residents in the centre does not relate to when they are transferred to a reception centre more definitively, notably giving rise to many conflicts between the residents and the managing bodies. The young residents collectively asked us to help them, telling us in unison that it is truly difficult for them to be understanding and wait for such a long time.

As at the centre in Alcamo, in Trabia whoever turns 18 stays a month at the centre without beginning the process for social inclusion and regularisation; then they are transferred to a CAS** where they start again on the adult track. “They have made me lose 7 months of my life, and now what?” one resident asked us, who will turn 18 on the first of January.

Many told us that they felt like prisoners, additionally because there is not interaction with the surroundings; others told us that no one gives them any answers, not even the humanitarian organisations who have visited the centre – and therefore they didn't have much faith in us either, notwithstanding that we were very clear in explaining that we unfortunately have no power, other than to raise a voice in accusing these projects of not functioning.

We left the young men to discuss matters with the workers, who are not tired of explaining to the residents their difficulties and their own impossibility of working in this system, a system which is incapable of welcoming even minors!

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

*CIE: Centro di Identificazione ed Espulsione: Immigration Detention and Deportation Centre
**CAS: Centro di accoglienza straordinaria: Extraordinary Reception Centre

Translation by Richard Braude