A “surprise” for Catania’s Astalli Centre

from ARGOCATANIA – Why such a hurry after so much inertia? And above all why so much approximation and dilettantism? That’s what the volunteers at the Astalli Centre have been asking themselves after being requested by the Catania local government to sign the extended renewal of the Don Pino Puglisi Reception Centre. That’s good news, I hear you say, where is the problem? The Astalli Centre thought so too. For some time now their reopening has seemed imminent and on receiving this news the celebrations began, only to be cut short though, as the Centre immediately discovered that the building was still without the necessary authorisation.

Yet a few
years ago, Astalli had to leave the building and pay a hefty fine precisely because the building did not have the
correct paperwork. How is it possible that the local government is now trying
to get them back into the building which still doesn’t meet building
regulations and health and safety standards? Maybe there is nothing sinister
behind the act, but nonetheless, there is a definite superficiality.

Let’s have
a brief look at the history of this two-storey building, situated in via
Delpino. It was taken off Nicolò Maugeri who was connected to the infamous
Santapaola clan in 2006 and given to the Astalli Centre.

association covered the necessary restoration costs and it was renamed Don Pino Puglisi and began its life as a
reception centre for foreigners. It was equipped as a centre to take in 24
people and became an important point of reference for migrants who had no fixed

In August 2008,
at the request of the Prefecture, the Centre took in 30 asylum seekers from
Lampedusa. It no longer offered just nightly services but ran as a fulltime
centre complete with meals, legal assistance, Italian lessons etc. These
activities came to a halt when the house was closed following an inspection,
carried out by Nas, which found that
the ground floor did not conform to safety standards and that the structure
lacked the necessary emergency exits.

And so the
structure, despite being fully furnished and well- equipped, was closed down
for three years, even in moments when “places were being looked for to
house those without a fixed address with extreme urgency”. The local
government, despite having stated that it was willing to carry out the
necessary works and despite having obtained
regional financing in order to do so, remained inactive.

the Astalli Centre continued to pay, throughout this whole period, for the use
of the building including security guards to ensure that it was not vandalised.

When they
were finally invited to meet the town councillor for the Town’s Social
Policies, Pennisi, and the president of the Legal and Development Consortium,
Guarino, how was it not possible for them to think that had finally reached the
end of this long procedure?

reconstruction works had been completed, the regional money had been spent and
the town councillor probably wanted to close the whole affair with an air of
pride at all the work that had been carried out. Astalli, however, took the
carpet out from under his feet.

signing the contract Astalli asked for a check to be carried out ensuring that
the building consented to the norms- that which the local government outlined
for a building to be used as a ‘hostel’ as well as all the authorisations
(water, conformity with town planning, hygiene etc) necessary for the building
to be usable.

But the
authorisations hadn’t been granted and now Astalli finds itself in a position
where it does not want to accept the premises and thereby become responsible
for a building which does not conform to all the necessary health and safety

If the work
has been done and it is just a case of the paperwork which is missing, it
should be relatively quick to resolve the problem. But this is not the case and
the local government are trying to shirk all responsibility for the building’s

On 5th
October, the building passed into the hands of the Legal and Development
Consortium, who deal with buildings which have been reclaimed. The president
has decided to not consent use of the building until the correct paperwork has
been completed.

councillor Pennisi claimed that he was not responsible for issuing such
authorisation and instead referred the case onto the Head of Heritage,
Planning, Public Works and Maintenance, who were immediately contacted by Astalli.
But the same surveyor, Santonocito, who was in charge of the restoration works
told Elvira Iovino, Head of Astalli Catania, that it would not be simple to
obtain the necessary authorisation in a short time. They were able to enter the
building, however, to check what had become of the equipment which they had
bought or had been donated to them. The furniture, however, had all been piled
up together in order to carry out the works and it was impossible to check the
condition they were in or if anything was missing. It was only possible to
confirm the building was in perfect condition.

All that
remains to be done is to continue placing pressure (registered letters, faxes,
phone calls) until the situation changes. And to hope in the authoritative
intervention of Prefect Cannizzo, who together with the Director of Public
Prosecutions Salvi, who appear to have taken an interest in the episode, can
result in a quick conclusion to the affair. If this type resistance put up by
local companies who refuse to facilitate such procedures continues, the
perplexities on the seriousness of our administrators will only continue to