18th December 2011: Regional Demonstration outside the Mineo CARA (Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers)

Sicilian associations participated in the demonstration organised by the
Catania Anti-Racist Network, including: Officina rebelde, Cobas, qui mineo,
Centro Astalli Catania, Palermo Anti-Racist Forum, NO MOUS movement, Storie
Migranti. The demonstration, which was carried out with the migrants
themselves, was a mixture of both moments of conviviality and music, and also of
confrontation whilst speaking out against the living conditions and treatment
of those within the Centre.

The Mineo CARA
opened last March under the pretext of a migratory emergency which was created
to justify large-scale financial operations. It is one of the places where
economic and political interests become intertwined, claims Antonio Mazzeo, a
journalist whose work speaks of the Mineo CARA as an Italian disgrace, “One
of the main points of contention was that of the hoarding up of favours by the local
cooperative. You can bet that with the Mineo business, the President of the
Province managed to take a substantial number of votes away from the governor
of Sicily.”
The State gives the companies involved in the running of the centre €25 per
immigrant per day. Considering that the capacity of the centre is the largest
in Europe, it is easy to imagine the number of
consortiums and companies who are eager to be part of such rich pickings.
Almost 1,400 immigrants live in the centre. They come from the Maghreb Region
of north Africa, sub- Sahara, Bengal, and Pakistan. Women and men are placed
in promiscuous conditions. There are many different families but no
unaccompanied minors. The last of the arrivals, who were from Somalia, ran away last month.

At the moment, migrants are arriving from other “centres” in Sicily. During July and
August (17th August was when the last boat that arrived from Lybia- excluding
the two that came in November and December) potential asylum seekers were
placed in hotel-like structures without any legal assistance whatsoever. It now
seems as if all of those structures are being emptied with the intention of
concentrating the migrants at the Mineo CARA. Just last week, over 40 people

In March
however, in addition to the Tunisians who had arrived in Lampedusa, people who
had already begun their asylum seeking process in other Italian Centres were
transferred to the Mineo CARA. This seems a highly illogical choice in the wake
of an emergency. It is absurd to move people to Sicily
when they have already started their applications in other parts of Italy as it
results in fewer places for new arrivals. This has to make you think about what
is really going on.

Previously there were two Territorial Commissions in the Mineo Centre, now
there is only one which is affiliated to the management company Sisifo and according to the Catania
Anti- Racist Network, administers lots of rejections. Migrants also denounce
the absence of interpreters who speak their language and the fact that some of
them are corrupt.

There was a
case where some migrants reported a Bangledeshi interpreter (see link above)
for corruption. ALL the migrants involved had their applications REJECTED.
Furthermore, the Territorial Commissions
(including the one in Syracuse),
instead of speeding up the requests for asylum, draw out the whole evaluation
process and reject the majority of applications. This means the immigrants have
no choice but to stay even longer periods in the centre waiting for the appeal.


The fact that
the Centre is so isolated (Mineo is the nearest town, but it is 11km away-
uphill!) and that the requests for asylum take so long make the situation worse
and impact negatively on the psychological state of the migrants. And, despite
the fact they have held many demonstrations and protests, the situation hasn’t
changed. Regulations state that the CARA should provide for its “guests”
(what a term to use!) for a maximum of 35 days. Yet it has become an enormous
arbitrary detention centre.

Laura Verduci
for the Palermo Anti-Racist Forum