21 October 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

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