What Remains of Welcoming

While the Mare Ionio saves 49 people, the war of tweets is starting up to smear the Italian NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans. This rescue mission demonstrates that people continue to leave and die at sea, or in Libya where they are brought back to and tortured – with our money.

The Mare Jonio of the NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans (valori.it)

As well as hiding the truth about the massacres in the Mediterranean and its complicity in the,, the Italian government is spending public money on renovating the Lampedusa Hotspot and the Milo detention centre,* where words have been entrusted to Invitalia and the Military Aeronautical body respectively. Yet more money wasted without any logic, for building that have neither reason nor effectiveness.

Inhumane Political Choices

The willingness to carry out good practices of migrant reception is something that concerns very few people in this context. Indeed, very little remains of any culture of welcoming, and – thanks to these inhumane political choices – people have become still more simply commodities to help line someone’s pockets.

To give but one example, the Prefecture of Palermo closed another hostel (CAS),* the one in Altavilla, due in part to the Ministry of the Interior’s plan to reduce the number of people in the reception system, but also for the fact that the managing body won’t see a justifiable return on a centre with so few people. Those present – around 23 people – have been relocated at Piano Torre (Isnello) and Marineo. Both locations, aside from not being well connected to the city of Palermo, have no connected to the places were the residents of Altavilla were studying or working. No one gave any though to the integration that had been earned with so much sacrifice and difficulty, no one thought about the real needs of those being transferred. Our phone rang without stop, filled with messages from the young men filled with fear about their new location.

Aim achieved? Two of them have renounced their place in the reception system and three ran away before the transfer took place. These people will end up becoming invisible before too long, exactly as the government wants, the same that boasts about closed ports and zero landings. The destruction of the reception system means creating problems for local bodies, in fact, because while the Ministry of the Interior creates invisible people, local councils strapped for resources become responsible for the homeless, with difficulties that all of us are experiencing. Continued actions by the police make little sense, that end up with raids that simply sweep up people without documents, give them an expulsion paper, and put them back on the street again.

We asked the prefecture for an explanation and tried to involve some journalists in the story, in order to publicise what’s happening, but without any great success. In reality, there were few places in hostels in the city itself, not enough for the 23 people to be transferred, and many had already been taken by people who had just arrived from Mineo, who the Ministry – for reasons of which we are not aware – wanted to relocated in Palermo. These are people who were parked in Mineo for years, and they will continue to remain parked for years here now, given that they are involved in appeal processes – and without access to decent pathways of integration, they do not have high chances other than being exploited by the Mafia and other underhand schemes.

Killing Off Hope

A: “This camp is no good, how can you live here, there’s nothing, just trees, how can I keep going with what I was doing in Palermo if there isn’t even a bus?” A series of phrases all like this, the words of the young men who’ve just arrived in Piano Torre. “I’m going, I can’t live this life, always worse, always more left alone, I can’t manage it anymore.” And this isn’t the situation only at Piano Torre, but also at Marineo: “This new camp is no good, it’s on the topp of a hill far from Marineo itself, and there’s not even a bus into town, we have to walk for over an hour. There’s no chance of us continuing what we were doing in Palermo, we don’t even have a wardrobe for our clothes. It’s not right.”

Similar reports are coming into us from the province of Agrigento. This is the case, for example, at Villa Sikania, the container centre in the province where people are being transferred from the camp in Mineo (including vulnerable persons). People who have court hearings for their asylum claim in 2020, where people live in rooms with 25 beds, and where the hygiene conditions – according to that which the residents tell us – are worse than Mineo itself, and where the quality of life has fallen has collapsed completely and opportunities for a better future have been scrubbed out.

People first. This is the only response possible for a better future for everyone, in order to get back to being and thinking like human beings and not arrogant, ferocious capitalists, ready to sacrifice everything and everyone – including the 45 Moroccans who died in the Mediterranean Sea between Spain and Morocco a few days ago, about whom everyone is keeping very silent, including journalists.

Alberto Biondo

Borderline Sicilia


* detention centre = Centro permanente per il rimpatrio
* CAS = Centro di accoglienza straordinaria


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

Translation by Richard Braude