The proposal in 2015 for central government funding of temporary structures designed for the hosting and/or identification, detention and deportation of migrants rescued at sea was assigned a balance of €610,045,927. “This covered the costs of the activation, establishment and management of centres for detention and reception of irregular migrants; the costs for assistance, including outside of the centres, and for schooling, as well as projects designed for the optimisation and homogenisation of management” explains Minister Minniti.
In particular, the sum of €127,271,248 was to be used for the management of the construction or possession of habitable structures (CARA* and CIE*) and costs associated with their use and related transport costs. The remaining sum, €482,773,679, was used for the “management of the temporary reception structures activated across the country following the Mare Nostrum operation and according to the agreement ratified at the Unified Conference of 1 July 2014, in which the National Plan for Confronting the Extraordinary Flow of Foreign Citizens Including Adults, Families and Unaccompanied Minors was agreed.
The Minister then regrets that the activation of new structures for temporary reception across the country was not supported by “an adequate sum of financial resources”, generating a debt of €211,529,585 in 2015. In the final count, therefore, government spending for the management of CARA and CIE over the past two years has been €821,575,512. No small sum, given the horrendous living conditions for the thousands of “guests” hosted in the majority of the active centres.
A not insignificant percentage of the budget was earmarked for so-called “infrastructural costs” i.e. related to “construction, acquisition, completion, adaptation, restructuring and extraordinary maintenance of property and infrastructure used for deportation centres and reception centres for asylum seekers and irregular migrants.” In total this represents a sum of €37,136,488.The interventions of greatest importance, the Minister reports, related to the restructuring and adaptation of the former “Serini” barracks in Brescia (€5,110,000), the creation of a new fence around the CARA in Foggia (€3,168,600), the functional adaptation of the former ASI Consorzio in Syracuse (€3,497,934), the restructuring of the “Village” of San Giuliano in Campobasso, Puglia (€1,289,475), the works at “Building E” at the former “Casarzerani” barracks in Udine, to “also be used in relation to the arrival of migrants coming via land” (€1,500,000), the restructuring and extraordinary maintenance works at the CDA/CARA at Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Crotone (€1,723,968), the works for the “structural and operational requirements at the Hotspots of Contrada Imbriacola, Lampedusa and Pozzallo, Ragusa (€1,200,000), the adaptation of former “Gasparro” barracks in Messina (€709,528) and the “Monti” barracks in Pordenone (€460,000), the extraordinary maintenance works at the former barracks in Oderzo, Treviso (€830,000), the adaptation of the “Youth Village” in Barletta-Andri Trani (€756,460). The ministerial spreadsheet finishes with the transfer of €620,000 to the “Lire UNRRA*” fund for the restructuring and operational adaptation of the buildings at Saint Pierre (Aosta), to be used as a migrant reception centre.
Recent months have seen abundant news of corrupt business dealings and mismanagement within some of the buildings and structures converted into migrant hostels. Luca Odevaine was a known reference point for the national coordination of immigration for the Minister of the Interior, only then to be arrested and sentenced for accepting bribes from the largest cooperatives in the “non-welcoming” business. During the Mafia Capitale investigations it was shown that the “Village” of San Giuliano in Puglia, served as a model of management, employment and clientism, a model to be replicated at the CARA at Mineo (Catania), perhaps the most emblematic example of the criminal fabric out of which Italy's migrant business is woven. Another disturbing episode is that concerning the CARA camp of Borgo Mezzanone in Foggia (less than a month ago the Ministry repealed the management of the centre from the “Senis Hospes” cooperative after having discovered the appalling living conditions to which the “guests” were subjected) or the centre at Isola di Capo Rizzuto, another location which represents a hell for migrants but a paradise for the business deals of a group of people closely tied to local Mafia families and clans.
In his relation to the Senate, Minniti also focuses on some of the lesser known chapters in the migrant business, relating to the concluding on 28 May 2017 of a Framework Agreement between the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration and Invitalia Plc, the national agency for attracting investments and business development, 100% owed by the Ministry for the Economy. In order to “provide support for the improvement of the system of structures for the reception and assistance of migrants”, the Agreement protects Invitalia as the contracting authority and central adjudicator for the Ministry of the Interior and its satellite agencies (the Prefectures) in the development of the “planning and actualisation of projects for structural adaptation” of buildings to be used for migrant reception. In order to carry out these roles, as can be seen in the 2015 budget, the Minister assigned Invitalia the sum of €488,000.
For the record, the publicly limited company (owned by the Ministry for the Economy) contracted by the Ministry of the Interior is presided over by the lawyer Claudio Tesauro, simultaneously President of Save the Children Italia (non-profit), and previously the legal representative for the industrial holding General Electric and the insurance company Generali-INA, as well as member of the administrative council for TNT Post Italia Plc and, since 2013, member of the board for Save the Children International. At the time of the Framework Agreement between Invitalia and the Ministry of the Interior, Save the Children Italia were running the Presidium project on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior and the Prefectures, in partnership with the international organisations IMO, UNHCR and the Italian Red Cross. The staff of Presidium provided advice and information to migrants at landings, evaluating the standards of reception in the centres across the country and ensuring “support to the relevant authorities at the moment of identifying unaccompanied minors arriving by sea.”
During the activity of Invitalia there were several contradictions present – and some questions raised – regarding “structural planning and actualisation” of buildings designed for security and “reception”. On 20 October 2015, for example, the contract was tendered for the creation of two new Hotspot centres at the ports of Taranto and Augusta (Syracuse), for the first assistance and identification of arriving foreign citizens. While the Taranto structure for around 400 “guests” was opened in March 2016 with tents and containers within the port car park, the Hotspot in the commercial port at Augusta has still not been opened: in February last year, in fact, the Ministry of the Interior suspended the administrative procedure relating to the tendering process fro the second phase of the Hotspot “as a temporary precautionary measure”. The order followed the investigations opened by some MPs and local administrators with the public prosecutor in order to verify the legitimate workings of the tender. Costs of €1,944,480 were earmarked for the Augusta Hotspot, yet the project would have been devoid of the necessary authorisation from the port authority, the proprietor of the site indicated for the semi-detention of migrants, nor had any request for a state possession order been presented.
Matters were no better in Messina, where Invitalia had opened a tender in February 2016 for “activities relating to the executive planning of the adaptation of the properties within the former Gasparro barracks into a reception centre for migrants” (€138,000). Following this there was a competition for the beginning of works for a series of zinc shacks on the site. After a long and controversial procedure characterised by cancellations and court appeals, the contract was formally closed on February 6th the following year. The winner was a small Sicilian company, contracted for works to the tune of €1,249,550 (plus VAT), a sum 35.3% lower than the competitive initial value of €1,932,000.
Again in the Spring of 2016, Invitalia tendered a contract for the provision and execution, including transport, installation and erection, of the fence and associated works within the area indicated for the Hotspot for migrants at the Residence degli Aranci at Mineo (€1,932,000). The proposal developed in the same months as the outcomes emerged of the investigation by the public prosecutor of Catania into the mismanagement of the CARA at Mineo, with the indictment of politicians, staff, administrators and proprietors of the companies and cooperatives which had managed the centre over the years. While requests for the definitive closure of the mammoth structure at Calatino came in from every side, the works on the fence organised by Invitalia went ahead, involving a residential property (formerly used by the American Marines stationed at the Sigonella military base) belonging to a large public construction company, Pizzarotti Plc (legally located in Parma). As established by the inquiry, in order to rent the entire property, the managing body had signed annual contracts with Pizzarotti for €4.5m, plus VAT. In its recent report on the CARA at Mineo, the Parliamentary Commission of the inquiry into the reception system states “As regards the maintenance of the structure, the triennial rental contract of April 2014 between Consorzio Calatino and Pizzarotti Plc stipulates the contractor's obligation to return the property in good condition with obligation to compensate for any damage caused by the guests. […] In this respect, however, it must be noted that Pizzarotti Plc is also a component of the consortium which obtained management of the centre, to which end it is attributed an annual premium of 8.93% of the value of the contract for its services in managing the ordinary maintenance of the structure. The result is that bad maintenance of the structure could lead to an increase in resultant damages leading to the same Pizzarotti, at the end of the rental period, being able to request restitution or compensation.”
Invitalia's impact on the planning and actualisation of new reception infrastructure has also been flagged up by the publication of two new million-Euro tenders. One is for the conversion and adaptation of a council-owned building in Trinitapoli (Bitonto) into a migrant hostel (published 15th December 2016), and the other is the awarding of services for the “provision and execution, including transport, installation, erection, maintenance and final dismantling of a temporary structure consisting of pre-fabricated parts in the port of Reggio Calabria” (published 19th May 2017), with a total budget of €1,382,935.
Last October, Invitalia tightened its collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior in relation to the management of migration, signing an agreement for the tendering of the contract for the entrusting of services of linguistic-cultural mediation for the police, to be utilised in the phase of assistance and identification of migrants landing in Italy. “Among the main objectives of the service is to enhance communication between migrants and police personnel, and facilitate the activities of the Immigration Offices in police stations in connection with identification procedures of foreign citizens, the formalising of requests for international protection and the issuing of permits to remain or other procedures as might be necessary”, the publicly limited company chaired by Claudio Tesauro explains in a note. Invitalia will offer the Ministerial Central Director of Immigration an auxiliary commissioning service for the activation of the tendering procedures through developing the definition according to a regulatory framework for the project, the formation of the competition documents, support in the final adjudication and the contractual agreement.”
Project "OpenEurope" - Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus
*CARA = Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers [Centro di Accoglienza per Richiedenti Asilo]
*CIE = Identification and Deportation Centre [Centro di Identificazione e Espulsione]
*UNRRA = United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration fund
Translated by Richard Braude