Elderly Asylum Seekers kept waiting outside CARA Pian del Lago for 24 hours

Last Wednesday we published the relative
information regarding the transfer of 60 migrants, who had arrived in Palermo
on the 14th of April, and were transferred that very morning to the CARA* of
Pian del Lago. The centre was suddenly able to provide dozens of places, even
though there was a list of Asylum Seekers that had been waiting for a place for weeks.

In particular, we told about the situation
of an elderly couple who, along with their sons, were waiting for a week to be
accepted and, after being summoned by the Police Headquarters for an
appointment at 3 pm. were still waiting at the entrance at 8 pm.

The day after, we learnt that they were
still there and that they had spent the whole night. When they arrived at the
centre, carrying all of their belongings, convinced of being accepted to the
centre given their summons, they were told that there was only one place
available for the woman. This is the same problem that they have been facing since
being summoned to the Welcome Centre the first day. A solution that they logically
refused as the old woman could not enter CARA* without her family, the biggest
reason being that her health problems do not enable her to have full independence
and she has difficulties moving, requiring the continual assistance of her
family. The authorities showed indifference in response to the family’s second
refusal of this solution, that once again was no solution.

And, sure enough, it was this indifference
that led to these elderly people sitting on a seat for the whole night and the
following morning. The only show of solidarity
came from their fellow countrymen that live in the centre, and from those that
have supported the protest of their sons opposed to the unacceptable conditions
of their mother’s admission and to the fact that their father’s situation, over
70 years of age and with serious back problems, was not even taken into

Not even the UNHCR member, who arrived the
very same morning to attend the Territorial Commission, tried to know about or tried
to be able to find a solution to the extreme situation that is facing these two
elderly and vulnerable asylum seekers.

At 3.30 pm. the following day, we saw the
elderly couple and a man leaving in a car.

We were under the illusion that a solution
had been found after the painfully long 24 hour wait, but that very same
evening we learnt that in reality the car was only there to take them back into
the centre of town and that they were told to wait until Monday when they will
have potentially found a solution.

It is clear that the two elderly people,
evidently in poor health, would never have been able to walk the 5km that separates
the governmental Welcome Centre and the city. In fact, the area lacks access to
public transport and does not have pavements or even street lighting. The
continuous road accidents just act to confirm the danger and how impassable the
road is, the victims are always asylum seekers staying at the Welcome Centre,
forced to walk it every day, such is the punishment of staying
in the centre. Between last September and today there have been 3 accidents,
with the last one occurring only last week.


Finally, this morning the prefecture
arranged for the costs to be met for the couple and one of their sons to join a
project of SPRAR for nuclear families run by the “i Girasoli”
association. Meanwhile new protests by asylum seekers waiting to be accepted
occurred this morning in front of the gates of the Pian del Lago centre. The
sudden availability of sixty overnight spaces, in response to the umpteenth
emergency declared by the Home Minister of a state affected by the arrival of
influxes of migrants for 25 years and that has once again failed to adopt
migration and internal policies that meets the needs of this reality.

When a tragedy like the one last night
happens, when even one migrant loses his or her life in the fatal trip that
they are forced to take to reach the shores of Italy and Europe, we shouldn’t keep
looking to the naval vessels of the Mediterranean with nostagia, but to these
migration policies and the effective protection of human rights of which Italy
and Europe do not show a willingness to implement or defend.

Giovanna Vaccaro
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

*CARA: Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers

Translation: Charlotte Carew