Medu – The first months of 2015 have been characterized by the rekindling of the discussion on the immigration issue and the sustainability of the current reception system. Episodes of corruption, like those solved by Mafia Capitale, and the high number of migrants arriving via sea impose the constant monitoring of residing conditions as well as of the efficiency of the facilities that are currently prepared to welcome migrants. For this reason, today Doctors For Human Rights (MEDU) carried out a hearing at the parliamentary commission of inquiry concerning the reception system as well as the identification and the detention of migrants, considering the constant presence of the organization within the CARA* of Mineo, which is the facility that hosts the largest number of migrants in Europe.
As part of the project “ON.TO: Stop alla tortura dei rifugiati lungo le rotte migratorie dai paesi sub-sahariani verso il Nord Africa”**, a team of MEDU has been present every week within the CARA of Mineo since November 2014, in order to gather testimonies and to provide medical and psychiatric assistance to asylum seekers who were victims of torture or inhumane and degrading treatments. Carrying out its activities, the team of MEDU – a coordinator, a psychiatrist, a female psychologist and a cultural mediator – found many significant criticalities in the CARA of Mineo, which in most cases are not related to the management of the contingent but are rather inherent to the model of the centre itself, which is based on a macro-facility that hosts between 3.200 and 4.000 people.
Overcrowding. Isolation of the facility from the rest of the territory. Average residing time of 18 months waiting for the completion of the procedure for being recognized international protection (instead of 35 days foreseen by law). Failure to register the asylum seekers for the national health service (which is in breach with the regulation currently in force). Dysfunctions in providing and accessing psychological and legal assistance services. Phenomena of degradation, illegality and violence that are managed with difficulty as has been recognized by the police itself. These are some of the most severe problems found by MEDU within the centre of Mineo and portrayed this morning at the parliamentary commission of inquiry.
All these criticalities negatively affect the wellbeing of the guests, who become numbers and are forced to long queues even for eating or for receiving medical care. The relationship that develops between staff and the hosted migrants is unavoidably unbalanced, as asylum seekers are forced into a passive and dysfunctional position of dependence from operational staff. All the more, the model of CARA of Mineo demonstrates to be completely inadequate to host asylum seekers who are most vulnerable, women and children.
The big size of the centre makes it particularly difficult to identify and care for people affected by severe psychological disorders as well as for victims of torture or inhumane and degrading treatments – who unfortunately are present in quite high numbers among the forced migrants at the centre – for whom an approach based on more attention for the single person would be necessary. On the other hand, some of the same characteristics of the model of Mineo – like conditions of anonymity, long residing and waiting times, the feeling of being “disconnected” from the surrounding territory – represent important risk factors for the onset and worsening of psychological distress as well as elements that heavily affect processes of development and nursing.
MEDU concluded its report at the parliamentary commission of inquiry outlining the key elements of an alternative reception model that should be decentralized and built upon small or medium size facilities, which should be distributed in a more uniform manner among all provinces and which should be properly monitored. Indeed, this model would allow to build a network of social relations with the territory and its services, thus enabling concrete paths of autonomy for a migrant, improving his/her access to medical, psychological, social and legal services, and enhancing the identification and assistance of more vulnerable people.
Translation: Chiara Guccione
*CARA – Centro di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo: Hosting centre for asylum seekers
** ON.TO: Stop the torture of refugees along migration routes from sub-Saharan towards northern African countries.