Freitag, 21. Oktober 2016

Western Sicily: The Failure Paid For By Those In Search of Hope

The high number (over 40) of housing communities for minors in the Province of Agrigento makes monitoring them difficult. Many of the centres of very first reception for minors, called “highly specialised” centres, are specialised in nothing other than malfunctioning. The most serious situations are to be found in Licata, Palma di Montechiaro and Porto Empedocle, but the reports we are receiving are wide ranging.

Some of the workers in these centres seem not even to know what a C3 form is (the form for formalising the request for asylum), never mind the use and necessity of legal advice or a personal guardian. The chronic lack of professional figures means that the managing bodies have little interest in the minors. Fortunately there are a very few workers who manage to survive this jungle while trying to carry out their work with dignity.

The proliferation of discriminatory institutional practices – combined with local populations' intolerance of the young migrants who wander the streets of urban centres, thinking of them as useful only if they perform heavy, badly paid work – is creating the paradox that foreign minors (and adults alike) are accepted only if they are disposed to being exploited! Woe indeed on those who complain that the water for the shower is limited to a few hours a day, or if the food is meagre or not of good quality, or if they have not been able to contact their loved ones back home for months at a time.

In some cases the prejudice of the workers goes beyond that based on differences of religion or skin colour, and hides itself simply in haircuts: “since the first day he entered the community, I knew that I would have problems from him, his haircut says it all!” Indeed, the fact that the worker in question graduated in economics, but now works in a community as a mediator, says a lot.

While waiting for the permission required to visit the centres so as to better understand the dynamics at work in these structures, Borderline Sicilia has made the appropriate representatives of the Prefecture aware of what is going on, as well as workers from Save the Children (who can access only the centres of very first reception managed by the Prefecture, and not the housing communities under the 'management' of the local councils). We have done so in the hope that the number of people leaving the centres, currently rising exponentially, might come to a halt, as well as the levels of anger and the continued protests.

The protests never stop, whether in the extraordinary reception centres, the Hubs or the Hotspots, because despite the presence of some workers attempting to plug the gaps, the system is by now in tatters. At the Hotspots in Milo (Trapani) and Contrada Imbriacola (Lampedusa), there are rooms being used like those in a CIE*, in which North Africans are illegally detained while awaiting repatriation. Last week at Lampedusa 43 Tunisians were repatriated, after having spend more than 10 day in the Hotspot, watched over by guards and isolated from the rest of the people present, and in the end transferred on a police bus, and escorted by two vans, up to the “Falcone e Borsellino” airport in Palermo, so as to be sent back on a plane to Tunisia.

News of illegitimate practices is coming in even from the only Hub in Sicily, Villa Sikania in Siculiana (Province of Agrigento), where 200 Eritreans have been waiting for around 10 months for the end of the relocation program which by now seems to be simply an illusion. The other migrants there, arriving from Lampedusa, pass through Villa Sikania for a few days or weeks before being transferred up North. The image of hundreds of Eritreans (those who have not run away over the past months) forgotten in a container/Hub provides a snapshot of Europe's failure, a failure paid for by those in search of hope.

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia

Project "OpenEurope" - Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus  

* CIE – Centro di identificazione e espulsione (Centre for Identification and Expulsion)

Translation: Richard Braude