The terrible living conditions of migrants in the informal camp of Pian del Lago were made even more severe following the fire that was set ablaze at 6pm on the 12th of February. Fortunately, there were no victims or injured. Both the police and fire brigade intervened: they put out the fire, asked a few questions and nothing else, leaving the reality of the degradation underneath the bridge of SS 640 to wait for a more adequate alternative.
For one of the shacks in the camp, only a skeleton of poles and burning smell remained. The boys who were sleeping in it lost everything, even their clothes; they had to move to sleep in an abandoned farmhouse nearby. It is unclear what caused the fire, two boys who were there told us, seated next to the remains. They rule out fires being left lit, no one saw who or what started the fire.
In the camp, composed of another farmhouse and various tents, there are approximately fifteen men: some permanent, like a man without documents and with a clear psychological vulnerability – by now having been stuck for an extended period of time in a limbo of fragility and abandonment – or those who are waiting for a place in a CARA* or in another reception centre in the Caltanissetta province. Many are only passing through, arriving from various parts of Italy to renew their documents. All of these people, not having another place to go and sleep, remain in wait for months, as there are no evening reception centres where you can pass the night in the city. They sleep in tents, in farmhouses and in nearby abandoned houses, they are out all day in the cold, including in the rain, amongst puddles and mud.
The waiting times for renewal are not brief, and this slowness in the administrative management certainly does not help anyone, even less those who renew their residency permit for humanitarian reasons – two years of residency – or those who request a residency permit as asylum seekers, only six months. These people find themselves collecting their permit as it is expiring.
One of these boys told us how he came from Milan to be in the immigration office to book his appointment for the renewal – two months before the expiration of his permit – and the first appointment available that they gave him was November 2018: nine months of waiting, for those who cannot wait another three for collecting their permit. One year lost in apathetic suspense, possessing only a simple piece of paper with the date of the appointment. In this way, they find themselves having to interrupt all their life plans, not able to continue to work, to study or enrol in the National Health Service.
The only door that remains open allowing them to survive in these months is black labour on farms or other kinds of exploitative labour.
*CARA – Centro di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo: Reception centre for asylum seekers
Translated by Meg McLellan