15 March 2018

An Illustrious Intruder

Three days’ ago, our editors received the latest anonymous report relating to the working methods of a certain reception centre. More than in the past we have asked ourselves how to utilise this report, and what importance to give a series of facts that seem to go beyond the dramas of a TV soap opera.

Last February, a group of centres were closed in Palermo, including the two housing commnities for minors run by the ‘Kronos’ consortium – ‘Terra Ferma’ and ‘Nuova Luna’, both located in Poggio Ridente.

Up to this point, nothing surprising, given that these communities had been under the watch of institutions and humanitarian organisations for some time due to the problems unfolding inside the structures. Inspections had been carried out both by the Palermo city council as well as the courts.

The problems no doubt derived from the unfortunate location of the communities, set as they were in the Palermitan hillsides, without any public transport connection to the city centre, leaving only the private minibus run by the managing body, which turned out to be used rarely as “we need to tighten out belts”. The young residents thus found themselves in a situation of isolation and abandonment, along with exhausted, tired out staff, left without payment and with a continuous turnover of managers.

The buildings were cold, deprived of heating amd with mould on the walls and in the bathrooms (only two bathrooms between 30 young men), which malfunctioning and in dreadful hygenic conditions. Even the hot water was a fantasy, and the residents used to heat up the water themselves and pour it on themselves with bottles. There was no educational project and so they just passed the days under dirty sheets and blankets (not thick enough for the Winter period) in order to keep out the cold.

After the closure of the buildings, thanks to the intervention of the council’s social services and some NGOs, all 30 residents were transfered to other communities, especially the young adults who otherwise are often abandoned in the streets of Palermo.

The percularity of the report we have received is that the 30 unaccompanied foreign minors lived with an elderly man with psychological problems, who resided in the building as a “volunteer”!

It seems beyond belief but an elderly man with psychological problems had spent three years, days and night, living with the young residents, who freqently and voluntarily cared for him as well. An elderly man who, from the report we have received, turns out to be the father of a well-known Palermitan political who in fact abandoned his father in these buildings to be “received” by a friend, the figurehead of the consortium that includes the ‘Kronos’ association.

An elderly ‘volunteer’ – though never present or active, given that he spent 3 years of his life at Poggio Ridente, living, sleeping and eating alongside the boys, watching TV with them. As far as we have understood, in the evenings he would retire to the annexe of the buildings where the offices were also located.

The educators among the staff were obliged to admnisted his daily pills, without anyone every explainingto them the kind of illness he was affetced by, nor the reason for his physical presence.

The emotional connection with the other residents in the community is supposed to have been so good that last year the elderly man even celebrated his birthday with the boys.

After the buildings were closed, the elderly man seems to have remained entrusted to the consortium, and today continues his voluntary activities in another structure, again for unaccompanied foreign minors. In this new situation he is again sleeping in the building – Casa Marconi – although no longer in the annexe but in a room on the fifth floor – room n. 513 to be exact, as has been reported to us.

The story is enigmatic and worthy of a scene including this well-known “committed” political, friend to the head of the cooperative and with a background of a system for hosting minors that is increasingly out of control, and not only in Palermo.

Borderline Sicilia


Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation by Richard Braude

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