Dienstag, 16. August 2016

Extraordinary Reception Centers, the Case of Palermo. Borderline: “Some make a profit from the invisibility of the migrants.”

Source: MeridioNews

Alberto Biondo has visited some extraordinary reception centers in the region's capital for Borderline: “The asylum seekers are frustrated by the bureaucracy. The reception system has no beginning and no end and is purposefully conceived in a way that leaves people hanging.”

Photo: Alberto Biondo

In Palermo and the rest of the province, there are a little over ten extraordinary reception centers. Set up in times of emergency to compensate the lack of space in regular structures and provided shelters, today they are, in contrast to their names, completely integrated in the ordinary reception system for asylum seekers. According to information that were given to Borderline, there are between 450 and 500 migrants in these kinds of centers in the region's capital. In these extraordinary reception centers there are mainly those who have appealed their rejection of asylum. “It is mainly people from Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, but also some people from Bangladesh. People who have applied for asylum before the hot spot system was in place, whose application was rejected, and who are now caught in a loop,” he tells Meridionews. In the context of his monitoring work for Borderline, Alberto Biondo has visited centers of which many are in counties of the province: Geraci Siculo, San Giuseppe Jato, and Piana degli Albanesi, just to name a few of them.
Borderline's work has served to investigate the system of reception “which neither has a beginning nor an end,” says Biondo; it “is built with the intention to leave those people hanging and to make them invisible. It is this invisibility which leads to some people making a profit in less than pleasant ways out of the migrants' being here: those who let them work illegally on their fields, the mafia that uses them as runners, and others who exploit them as male or female prostitutes.“ The main issue? “To contain the frustration of these young people with the long waiting times of bureaucracy. It simply cannot be the case that a document which they were supposed to get after two months takes up to two or three years to be issued. Most people in Palermo's extraordinary reception centers stay there for a long time. Some of them arrived in 2013 or 2014 and they are still there. A person who has to work to send money back home cannot be held back for months or years.”

The extraordinary reception centers are of good structure, but often they are far off of any lived-in areas, a situation which leads to many problems: “It is impossible that there are centers in mountainous regions that lack infrastructure and are hard to reach,” Biondo explains. The prefecture legitimizes this decision with a lowered risk for migrants to get in contact with criminal networks. On the other hand, however, it is much harder to assimilate in these isolated regions, not to mention the many problems in terms of accessibility of authorities and service providers. Yet the geographical position is not the only problem, others result from the way job advertisements for leading positions in these centers are phrased. These, according to Biondo, need to be revised: “Certain job profiles need to be present in extraordinary reception centers at all times. Yet, this is not accounted for in the prefecture's guidelines. We noticed that some employees are present only a couple of hours per week sometimes.”

However, what can be done? Biondo has a clear vision: “The job advertisements need to be adjusted to the real needs of the people. We need to assign clear and constant responsibilities: psychologists, lawyers, mediators for language and culture that have to be present at all times. It is not possible that the employees are only used to pacify the respective center. Often there are no mediators for language and culture that are present at the center at all times, instead they have to be requested. The biggest obstacle in extraordinary reception centers,” Biondo explains, “are both the cultural as well as verbal communication. Finally, we need to reduce the number of residents for extraordinary reception centers. Twenty people are already a lot, although we have experienced centers with up to 80 inhabitants.”

Manlio Melluso

Translation: Annika Schadewaldt