Freitag, 4. November 2016

Hard to Accommodate: Agrigento

Looking over the most recent data, it seems that the practice of handing out rejections is once again in fashion at the Sicilian police stations. Last week there were rejections of 26 Moroccans and 3 Algerians in Agrigento, having arrived at Porto Empedocle on the ferry from Lampedusa. Along with them there was a Tunisian who was arrested as a “suspected boat driver”. On the ship connecting the Pelagian islands and Sicily there were also around 20 foreign unaccompanied minors, who will have joined the veritable army of minors hosted by the vast numbers of housing communities in the Province of Agrigento, even claiming a record for the number of centres of 'first reception' for minors, opened as usual in a situation of emergency.

The 'Centres of First Reception' (CPA*) can hold around 50-60 minors, whose complaints regarding the lack of services are frequently responded to by the managing bodies with threats of various kinds. Bullying has become the norm. For instance – according to many former residents – being flagged up to the police as potentially being overage, and then being certified as so based exclusively on a wrist X-ray, contrary to the new guidelines contained in the law on unaccompanied foreign minors which has recently been approved. As if by magic, whoever protests and complains becomes an adult.

Due to the chronic lack of places in the Extraordinary Reception Centres (CAS*) for adults, or because many of the centres for minors are “at risk” due to continued protests, the new adults are then left out of the system and their only alternative is the street. Some of the new adults have been transferred to the Hub at Villa Sikania, where they remain “parked” for months along with around 200 Eritreans who have applied for relocation, those at least who have still not decided to abandon the structure due to the infinite wait.

On October 29th at around 5.30pm, the navy vessel Borsini docked in at Porto Empedocle and around 223 people were landed, along with 3 bodies recovered from the sea. On land the Red Cross and other humanitarian organisations were waiting, including Emergency and Save the Children. And, of course, the police.

The migrants were half-naked and barefoot, some of them wearing back binbags. Some of them were given emergency blankets and jumpers. Under the Red Cross gazebo, they were given basic necessities. In the end they boarded the waiting coaches. The women and children were landed first. Among them there was a baby of only 34 days. For at least two women it was necessary to take them in an ambulance to the hospital. Then the men came, the majority from Subsaharan Africa, and many of them very young. One of them too was taken away in an ambulance. A doctor noted that, in comparison with previous landings, “these ones seem much more tired and tested”. At sunset the mortician boarded the Borsini to recover the three bodies.

Following this, as well as the landing of October 26th (200 people on the navy vessel Chimera), the living conditions at Villa Sikania are now similar to those of the Lampedusa Hotspot: an overcrowded centre of 600-700 people, some stuck in an eternal wait for the relocation progam, others for transferral to a 'second reception' centre, transferrals which are also far too frequently extremely late to arrive.

Alberto Todaro
Borderline Sicilia

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

*CPA = Centro di Prima Accoglienza (Centre of First Reception)

*CAS = Centro di Accoglienza Straordinario (Extraordinary Reception Centre)

Translation by Richard Braude