19 February 2019

Facing The Truth

In the era of Twitter politicians, it’s increasingly difficult to tell the difference between real news and the fakes of propaganda put there to sweep up ‘likes’ and distract people from the real issues at hand. Over recent days, more people have been handed over to the hands of the Libyan prison guards from whom they had escaped, while we look on powerless, in the end complicit in such horrors.

Despite the fact that the numbers clearly show an increase in deaths at sea, we keep hearing politicians repeating without shame that, thanks to these policies, the number of deaths has gone down. The externalisation of borders is a dirty game in which vast sums of money are at stake, sums that excite the arms lobby, businesses that are sustained through agreements whose contents are kept hidden from public opinion and removed from parliamentary examination.

And thus – even while people are busy taking up the rhetoric of “Italians First!” and “stop the landings”, “close the ports” – one can understand what it is really going on easily enough simply by going to Lampedusa or the Trapani coastline and speaking with those who live there, who see continue to see people arriving in the so-called “phantom landings.” Those arriving are mainly from Tunisia, people who pay criminal organisations that are getting fat thanks to the current migration policies. This last claim might seem to be the usual rubbish spouted by ‘do-gooders’ – but actually it’s a fact provided by the President of the Palermo Court of Appeal.

The Current State of the Reception System

The real aim is to destroy the hosting system worthy of that name, one that – on paper at least – contained the possibility of giving something back to the local area and, even more so, to those being hosted, as many small localities have shown, places in Sicily and beyond that have taken on a new life. There are plenty of places that, thanks to the government’s political choices, will now return to being phantom towns. The new reception system will suit administrators delegated by the big cooperatives, businesses that will receive the same sums of money and will now be able to sack qualified staff. On this aspect again it suffices to look at just a couple of facts. First, that which is happening in the emergency hostels,* where extreme and unacceptable situations are ever more frequent (hot water only in the morning or in the evening for an hour, no heating, no translation, constant delays in payment of ‘pocket money’), many of which are being closed due to being empty or a low number of residents, along with the letting go of staff. Secondly, there are the new contracts being tendered which, as the report by Valori.it has shown, are aimed at replacing the smaller SPRAR* hostels with mega-centres, simultaneously opening up the market to big British, German and Swiss firms.

The new regulations will increase the per capita costs of hosting asylum seekers, thanks for the choice to sustain large centres instead of the network of smaller SPRAR centres. This is a business that big foreign firms are getting in on, looking for new markets. The real cuts are hitting integration, social cohesion and local well-being, with a loss of jobs connected to the centres, such as bakeries, supermarkets and other small commercial activities in small towns, including the closure of medical centres and less places in primary schools. All of this is to the advantage of a Mafia system that – just like the human traffickers – will be benefit from the policies being put in place: according to the Eurostat Regional Yearbook 2018, four out of the eleven European areas with the greatest number of under-24s out of employment are Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia. The presence of the Mafia and a lack of employment opportunities, according to the regional anti-mafia board,* seems to confirm how organised crime reduces licit business initiatives and then “profits from the needs of young people, taking advantage of local labour pools, providing a temporary sensation of distributing wages – which are always very low – in order to generate dependency and without any guarantee of social security (nor, thus, of a future) to young people engages in its service.”

Despite the fact that these are the news stories that should be seen as an emergency, ones that require urgent and comprehensive regulatory interventions, this farce of a government is instead speculating about non-existent problems in order to feed a continuous, dirty electoral campaign.

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia


* Emergency hostels = CAS (Centri di accoglienza straordinaria)
* SPRAR = System for the protection of asylum seekers and refugees (Sistema per la protezione di richedienti asilo e rifiugiati)
* Regional antimafia board = Direzione distrettuale antimafia


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

Translation by Richard Braude

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