Montag, 1. Februar 2016

Alagie’s story, one out of many rejected minors

At the beginning of January, the immigration office of Caltanissetta informed us about the case of a foreign and unaccompanied minor who, after having received a decree of removal, left Sicily and was living in the streets.

In order to respect his privacy, we will call him Alagie. Anyway, we are convinced that, whatever name we would choose, that very story would correspond to what hundreds of minors, who live and stray in the streets, go through, without being able to benefit from any kind of protection, as a consequence of the orders of removal ordered by the Italian authorities, who continue with the collective identifications and their arbitrary acts of selection between economic migrants and asylum seekers, right on the disembarking spots.

It was one of his friends from Caltanissetta who kept on looking for Alagie, although not having been able to trace him for a couple of weeks. Finally, thanks to mutual acquaintances, he learned that he was in Milan, where I was staying at the very same moment. 

Before meeting him, I decided to call the office of Terre des Hommes to reach some of the social services that could help me. Among the phone numbers I received was an emergency contact for minors (as a part of the social services of the municipality of Milan), so that I decided to begin my phone calls by that very number. I suddenly noticed that the local services weren’t informed yet about what has been happening in Sicily for some months already. So it happened that, after having presented Alagie’s situation to the social worker, the firm reply was that it is impossible for a minor to be rejected.
Actually, in theory it should be working like that. But given that, in reality, things are quite different, I ask the social worker for some advice about what I could do. She recommends going along with her to the police station, which would also be a good idea, unless Alagie had not received a decree of deportation, which makes it impossible to follow the designated practice. 

So then, I dial the number of the project Unità di Strada by Save the Children. Given that no one answers my calls, I can only get in touch with the dormitory in Via Corelli, where they confirm their availability. 
Finally I can go and meet Alagie, relieved to find him in good health. I explain that the only thing I could do, other than speaking to his counsellor and an organisation which could take care of his case, would be to take him to the public dormitory for minors. He accepts, so on our way he starts telling me his story, from the arrival in Lampedusa to the way up to Milano. Having arrived in Lampedusa on November 21st, in the very moment of embarking, he was recognized as a minor refugee, together with four other boys. After having filled in the brief questionnaire handed over by the police, he is first brought the first help station, as he did not feel very well, from there to the hotspot of Contrada Imbriacola, where he stayed for two weeks. Before being brought to the ferry to Agrigento, he was able to talk again with a worker of Save the Children who had told him and the other four boys that they would receive a decree of deportation, telling him to contact her colleague in Agrigento, once he arrived at the port. 
The ferry had already left when he and all the other people on board (60 people in total) received the decree of deportation, which he calls “the seven days paper”, given the limit of seven days within which they were ordered to travel to Rome and to leave Italy. 
Once he arrived in Agrigento, he met the Save the children employee and was brought to the Caritas centre, where he could stay for two weeks only. This centre had to introduce a limit of duration of the stay, in order to guarantee places for the several hundreds of people who arrive from Lampedusa with a decree of deportation in their hands, without any idea of where to go and what to do.
During his stay at the Caritas centre in Agrigento, he was given legal assistance from a counsellor and he was accompanied to the police station by a centre’s employee and by Save the Children employee, who tried to call attention to his situation. But the officer in duty only replied that there was nothing he could do, and that Alagie could indicate being a minor when filing a complaint against the decree of deportation. 

As the maximum time of stay in the Caritas centre in Agrigento had expired, Alagie had to leave again. Where? How? Why? Nobody was able to tell him. So he boarded a train, then another one and yet another one, without any money or ticket; finally, after two days, he reached Milan. The person he trusted could not help him in the end, and so he ended in the streets. 
As Alagie finishes telling his story, we are already close to the dormitory in Via Corelli, run by the organisation Arca. We enter and introduce ourselves to an employee who immediately calls the dormitory for minors, where Alagie will be accompanied that evening. The next day he would have the chance the meet to team of Save the Children
I explain everything to Alagie and I say goodbye. He is at peace when I leave him. 
The next day, I am able to reach the referee of Save the Children and hand over the documents sent by Alagie’s counsellor. After few days’ time, Alagie calls using a phone of a new friend of the dormitory to tell me he is fine. 
A few days ago, I have been put up to date by the Save the Children referee who was in charge of his case. She tells me that they are waiting for the confirmation that his decree of deportation is cancelled by court and, in a next step, they could arrange for his asylum request to be formalised. Probably, Alagie’s situation will be put in order, but in the same time hundreds of minors, who were identified as adults and rejected, still live in the streets in the same situation in which we met him, and so, are destined to become potential victims of human smugglers, ready to profit from their vulnerable condition in which they have been sentenced by the new European politics for the control of migration flows. 
Telling his story means giving a name to what happens to thousands of migrants, who are classified as economic migrants, passing the superficial and illegal proceedings put into reality by the authorities in charge of border controls. Such proceedings violate the right to access to the application for protection and the legal information and quintessentially end in collective deportations, which do not respect neither the vulnerability of the people who arrived, neither their young age.

Giovanna Vaccaro
Borderline Sicilia

Translation by David Hofstetter