A Future Deferred: Visit to an Extraordinary Reception Centre in the Province of Trapani

As you enter the “Vulpitta”
CAS* in the Province of Trapani, it feels a little disturbing knowing
that this was once the “Vulpitta” Temporary Stay Centre (CPT*),
one of the first detention centres for migrants. It was here that, 17
years ago in December, six Tunisian men died in a fire which tore
through the structure after a break out was heavily repressed by the
police. That centre was a trailblazer for many other situations in
which migrants continue to live. The new CAS shares the name of the
old CPT (which then became a Identification and Expulsion Centre,
CIE), as well as its proximity to a group of bars which are gathered
behind the former hospice, which is still closed and falling down.

Making our way into the centre,
we note a small deserted football field and an endless row of
bicycles which the migrants use to get around. We meet some of the
young men in a small “relax” area, despite the rain. “This is
the only place we can talk, other than our rooms”, they told us.

The structure is a former social
welfare centre (IPAB*), which has passed through many more or less
tragic moments since 2013, seeing people abandoned to their own fate
by a system which seems unable to function properly. Some of these
people have been present in the centre since it opened, in ever more
unstable psychological conditions.

managing body, which comprises one part of the Gruppo
feels abandoned by the state, as happens so often. “We make the
reception system, not the state; we take on the debt with the banks,
we take out the loans to keep a centre open and not leave everyone in
the street who, after 3 years, are like family to us. We can’t go on
like this.” These words do not, in fact, relate to a familial
treatment of the many problems, but rather to a difficulty in
managing situations which can no longer be described as “emergency”,
but instead are every day occurrences. In effect, the Prefecture of
Trapani is eight months behind in payments, and this has become a
problem for those structures which are lowering their standards of
service even more. In its turn, the Prefecture is finding it
difficult to control these lack of services due to the number of
people required, and everything then collapses into a vicious circle
on people’s lives, who nonetheless manage to put up with a vast

of services makes life impossible in a centre, because if the
migrants do not have documents and cannot manage to find work, they
cannot send money back to their families. ‘M.’, from Gambia, a large
man who asked us to help him with tears in his eyes, explained his
situation to us: “I’ve been here for three years and two months. On
November 28th
2014 I was given a negative by the Territorial Commission of Trapani,
and I’m still waiting for the results of the appeal. I’ve been
sleeping and eating here for three years, and occasionally work. At
4am I cycle to the fields at Paceco and if I’m lucky I come back at
9pm with €20 in my pocket. I send this money home to my 8-year-old
son who lives with my mother. I don’t understand why they keep me in
suspense like this, I’m just so confused, I’m worried that I’m going

There are many situations like
M’s at the Extraordinary Reception Centre of Vulpitta, where there
are currently 95 people, the majority of whom have received negatives
from the Commission. Like most of the CAS*, the Vulpitta centre is
running on extended time, because the new contract has been awarded
and the Prefecture is awaiting the verification of the structure
which has won the tender to then make the official transfer. Even if
Vulpitta, as a former IPAB*, will always remain an active centre
within the reception system. We have to ask ourselves what is
exceptional, ‘extraordinary’, about a reception system which has not
changed an iota in three years, aside from worsening. And how can the
new managing bodies maintain themselves, given that the delay in
payment is by now standard practice?

The CAS*, aside from the endemic
delays, exists with constant and evident problems, such as the lack
of communal spaces which form another obstacle against even holding
discussions between staff and residents. Due to there being no dining
hall, the resident eat in their rooms, spaces which lack cupboards,
with their clothes on the floor, bags and food all over the place.
This creates still more loneliness, despite the presence of 95
people, as well as a detachment from the managing body itself who, in
practice, is reduced to simply speeding up the bureaucratic process.
When we make note of this problem to the managing body, the response
is that there used to be furniture, but over the years the protests
have brought about this worsened situation. Today they cannot even
buy anything due to the lack of funds, and focus only on the pocket
money, “otherwise we risk breaking their nerve.” The lack of
communal spaces, on the other hand, is dealt with by claiming that
the corridor/entrance hall, next to the bathrooms and opposite the
bedroom doors, makes up the communal room, even if there aren’t even
any tables!

go and sell flowers every evening in the restaurants in Trapani,
because I’ve got a wife in Bangladesh, and a child who needs to go to
school. I don’t always manage to earn enough money for my family, and
I’ve been stuck in this place for far too long.” ‘A’ told us this
with complete composure. He is also making an appeal: for many of
them, the appeal hearings have been postponed to July 2017,
prolonging this limbo further still.

is no ‘welcoming’, and the difficulties are seen across the board,
just as at the centre in Triscina, the Aerus hotel, again managed by
the Gruppo
Since August the centre has been without a boiler nor video
surveillance because, as the managers tell us, a lightening strike
during a summer storm hit
the centre, putting various systems out of order. From August to
November, they have not been in a position to repair or replace them,
and today the residents still have no hot water and if in September
this wasn’t a problem, it is now. But the managing body can’t do
anything, and the residents have started to ask for help. We have
informed the Prefecture of the situation, in the hope that the latest
situation of bad ‘welcoming’ might be avoided.

future is not bright, and for many it is simply deferred, such as for
‘S’., a young Sudanese man who was let out of prison a few days ago,
and who we met while leaving the centre at Vulpita, while he was
looking for somewhere to spend the night. He too found himself in the
crowd of suspected boat drivers and, as often happens, was let out
without any directions after eight months in prison. The future for
him is probably not only deferred but in fact scrubbed out, because
it will be extremely difficult for him to have any future at all in
our country.

Alberto Biondo

Borderline Sicilia

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

CPA = Centro di Prima Accoglienza (First
Reception Centre

CAS = Centro di Accoglienza
Straordinaria (Extraordinary
Reception Centre

IPAB = Istituto pubblico di assistenza e beneficenza (Public
Institute for Aid and Welfare

CPT = Centri di permanenza temporanea (Temporary
Stay Centre

by Richard Braude