Lampedusa – unacceptable conditions

Save the Children has spoken out against the absolute inadequacy of the current living conditions which migrants are exposed to in the Lampedusa CSPA (First Reception Centre) following the boat arrivals of the last few days. They have drawn particular attention to the 123 minors who arrived from Lybia unaccompanied. The group includes 67 Somalis and 25 from the Gambia who are all between 12 and 17 years of age. Additionally there are 17 accompanied young children, 4 of whom are newborns.
The structure is overcrowded to excess due to the presence of 879 people compared to the 250 which it is designed to cater for (although it is possible to take in as many as 400). The toilets do not work and there are only 330 mattress available. Many of the migrants are having to ‘sleep’ sitting down as there is not even the space for them to lie.
Causing particular concern, is the situation of the unaccompanied minors and of the women with young children and newborns: all 281 of them have been crammed into a space adequate for 50, with only three available bathrooms. They sleep 2 to a bed, if not on the floor. Since they arrived the newborns have been sleeping on pillows. Some of the minors’ rooms have flooded, leaving them without dry clothes and forced to dress themselves in what bedding there is available even during the day. In order to replace the bedding, cardboard has been laid on the floor.
“These are unacceptable conditions and all the more so when we consider that these people, in particular the minors, women and children have been through such ordeals to get here. The overcrowding and confusion within the First Reception Centre is so great that we are even unable to carry out our role of providing information and support to the unaccompanied minors adequately,” stated Raffaela Milano, Director of Italian- European Programmes for Save the Children. “We’ve been pressurising all of the authorities involved in the running of the Centre: the Minister of the Interior, the Minister for Work and the Minister for Social Politics and Civil Protection, but the only answer we receive is that the problem is the result of a lack of the necessary finances. This in turn has led to the local government’s refusal along with that of other centres to take in the unaccompanied minors. Unbelievably, we are still finding ourselves operating as if we were in the middle of an Emergency: all it takes is a few days of calm conditions at sea for the crossings to start up again and place the system of reception into utter crisis. Despite recognising the legal rights and interests of the actors involved (local governments and centres) it is fundamental to guarantee that the rights of the minors are given the priority.”
According to migrant reports, Save the Children Italia and the other humanitarian organisations present on the island (UNHCR and OIM) who are working as part of the Ministry of the Interior’s Praesidium project state that the situation in Lybia, which is where the majority of those currently on Lampedusa began their crossing, is deteriorating. Sub- Saharan African immigrants are facing increasingly worrying counts of injustice and violence, such as not receiving their salary or being imprisoned and then blackmailed in order to regain their freedom. Consequently, fear has driven many into hiding. It is believed that there are many immigrants in Lybia who arrived in recent months and many who are planning to leave for Italy.
“We are appealing to the Government because it is necessary to immediately transfer the migrants who are currently in the CSPA, especially the most vulnerable: the mothers and children and the unaccompanied minors. Furthermore, it is necessary to individualise the number of places which are available in reception communities throughout Italy and ensure that the relative financial costs are covered. Finally, at least one Temporary Reception Structure must be reopened in order to provide accommodation for the minors while they are waiting to be placed in these other structures. This is yet another Emergency and it shows just how essential it is to stabilize national funding for 2013 for the system of reception and integration of migrant minors, who by law, are entitled to such rights.