Boys On The Outside

It’s not only the title of a celebrated film by Marco Risi, but the situation lived out today by a vast number of young men and women who arrive on our coasts or who have remained for a long time in the Extraordinary Reception Centres (CAS*).

Last week we visited four such centres and met the residents from two centres for unaccompanied minors.

Foto Alberto Biondo

We have been contacted by various young men from the Via Monfenera centre in Palermo (managed by the Asante cooperative), by the Porticello centre (managed by the new social cooperative Azzurra) and from the centre for unaccompanied minors in Salermi (managed by Faro). All of the residents complain of not having received adequate responses throughout their time (far too long a time) in the centres, sleeping throughout the day. For young men like Hassan**, it is as if they have been left like sheep on the pasture without any shepherd. In the six months they have been in Italy they have had no guardian, living with the risk of losing their “lost time”, seeing that many will soon turn 18…boys on the outside!

Whoever becomes an adult in such a first reception centre or emergency structure, after months of useless limbo, will be transferred (if seeking asylum) to an Extraordinary Reception Centre for adults, where they will begin a new bureaucratic process. But even if you have had the luck of having been placed in a residential community for unaccompanied minors, one can be unjustly thrown outside at the point of becoming an adult, even if seeking asylum or lacking a support network or alternative lodging and work, due to the delay in transferral of economic resources (assigned by the Ministry) from the prefectures to the managing bodies, passing through councils in a state of financial instability.

This situation obviously forces many people to run away and continue to challenge fate, offering up clients to networks of traffickers wandering around our cities, the beneficiaries of the conditions of non-reception… yet again, boys on the outside!

We visited the Extraordinary Reception Centres of “Terraferma”, “Siciliabedda” and “Villa Mokarta” in Salemi, where we celebrated the closure of Ramadan along with the residents. For one day, even just for a moment, the residents forgot their suffering at the hands of an indefinite wait and an uncertain future. There are 250 migrants present in the three centres, all transferred to Salemi in 2014, all asylum seekers who have received a negative from the Territorial Commission, and now pursuing an appeal in the courts. And many are now receiving rejections to their juridical requests…more boys on the outside!

Such a system can be thought of as a container in which to amass people from whom everything is taken (hope, prospectives) and to whom nothing is given (individual processes of inclusion in society and work, a future), and after two years (notwithstanding the hard work of some workers) to be left in the streets of a society ready to stereotype and frequently to exploit you. Still more boys on the outside, who will live like invisible people.

Foto Alberto Biondo

This is the story of many of the residents at the Piano Torre centre (CAS) in Isnello. A fate common to so many people. As is common practice, some 17-year-old unaccompanied minors are kept in centres for adults, awaiting their turning of age, at which point they can formalize their presence within the CAS*. An entirely illegitimate practice, camouflaged by the “emergency” within a failed system.

But illegitimate or irregular practices don’t matter any more. In the province of Trapani we can note the speeding up of the process of rejections from the reception system, seemingly only to free up space within it, while in the rest of Eastern Sicily official notices are arriving of vulnerable people, mainly with psychological problems, who are being refused from the SPRAR*** centres to which the central service had assigned them, with the extremely serious consequence of being lost the first reception system of the CAS*, ending up living on the street, sleeping on a bench and begging for alms. An inhumane dynamic in an inhumane system.

This is a system which continues to activate reception complexes ever further away from inhabited places, such as that in Piano Torre, in the mountains of the Madonie, where the residents move “freely” among the immense spaces of the centre, but where everyone says they suffer terribly through not being able to have contact with anyone beyond the centres’ workers. The Ministry of the interior has ensured the amassing of dozens of people in such centres, deferring what is to be done to the managing bodies, without financial resources, given that (for example) the Prefecture of Trapani does not have the necessary staff to undertake the work of transferring the state funds, and is 7 months behind with its payments.

The Prefecture of Palermo closed and reopened the Piano Torre centre, handing its management over directly to the owner (before it was to the Scarabeo cooperative) without calculating for the likely financial problems which lie beneath the centre. The centre, authorized to have 47 people, currently hosts 75 (the last arrivals came from last week’s landing), assigned by the Prefecture of Palermo to the managing body like so many postal packages, all in the name of ’emergency’. But notwithstanding the difficulty and distance from Palermo, some residents have also run away from Piano Torre, increasing the number of boys on the outside.

Finally we received notices of discharges from hospitals in the province of Palermo of young men with extremely serious problems, consigned to the CAS* reception system, in total negligence. People with heart disease, amputations, psychiatric distress, all discharged without any guarantee of adequate outpatient care, who we will make note of to the relevant enforcement authorities to ensure that the necessary checks are carried out. Still more boys on the outside.

Alberto Biondo

Borderline Sicily

*CAS – Centri di Accoglienza Straordinaria: Extraordinary Reception Centres

**All names have been changed.

*** SPRAR – Sistema di protezione per richiedenti asilo e rifugiati: System for the protection of asylum seekers and refugees

Translation: Richard Braude