In a few months’ time the former barracks of ‘Gasparro’ in Messina (in the urban area of Bisconte) will be transformed into one of the largest centres in Italy for the forced “welcoming” of those migrants awaiting the authorities’ decision on whether they will be eventually relocated to other structures for asylum seekers in Europe or – as will be the case for the vast majority of them – to be deported by military force to their countries of origin. Dozens of tents and containers will be installed next to the buildings of the ‘Gasparro’ (where around 200 young migrants have already been stuck for three years) allowing for the tripling or even quadrupling of the number of residents, and – just a short walk from the town centre – replicating the infamous failure of the “Mineo” model of reception.
[photo: Enrico di Giacomo]
On June 13th the tender was announced in the official gazette, for the “provision and undertaking, including transport, installation, construction, maintenance and final removal, of a temporary structure consisting of tent structures and pre-fabricated elements, gates and fences, shelters, fittings and signage, for the reception of migrants at the former Gasparro barracks of Messina.” According to the tendered bid, the contractor will have to ensure the maintenance of the grounds for at least 2 years; the entire contract will be awarded, it seems, for €1,932,000, plus VAT, of which €1,921,000 is for the provisions and work, and the rest to cover the insurance dues. The deadline for applications was fixed for the following July 1st, but to this day there has been no notice of whether the awarding process has been completed. The works are meant to be realised within 70 days from the effecting of the contract.
The Ministry of the Interior has already chosen Invitalia S.p.A, (The National Agency for Attracting Investment and Business Development), with 100% participation from the Ministry for the Economy as the bid’s central partner, and the lawyer Cristiano Galeazzi as the legal representative of the process. Invitalia S.p.A. (chaired by Claudio Tesauro, simultaneously President of Save the Children Italia, already an advisory member to the administration of TNT Post Italia S.p.A. and since 2013 also to the board of Save the Children International), had already signed an agreement with the Department for Civil Freedom and Immigration of the Ministry of Interior in Rome, for “providing the support to improve the repairs to the structures for the reception and assistance of migrants.” To this end, in February Invitalia published a tendered bid for the “activity of planning, execution and undertaking the furnishings within the former Gasparro barracks to make it suitable as a reception centre for migrants.” The foreseen compensation for the planners was fixed at €138,000, a value “underestimated by at least €140,990” according to a note sent on April 4th 2016 to Invitalia by the Order of Architects of the Province of Messina, and signed by the president Giovanni Lazzari, as well as the coordinator of public works, Filippo D’Arrigo. On April 7th the Order’s request was, nonetheless, rejected by the agency overseen by Claudio Tesauro, and the April 14th reconfirmed as the final date for the completion of the bid. For the record, on April 20th the National Council of Architects, Planners, Landscapers and Conservators in Rome, via the president Giuseppe Cappochin, also futilely requested for the contracting authority to “undertake the appropriate checks, through the suspension and voluntary re-examination, of the procedure of the bid, reserving the ability, in case of problems, to assess every appropriate action aimed at the full application of exiting rules.”
If the terms for the planners implies an intervention for the recovery and improvement of the various existing structures within the cast area in which the former barracks held the Italian army, the tender announced on July 1st reveals the cynical intention of the authorities governing the process towards a policy of emergency and total precarity for the system of housing and welcoming asylum seekers arriving in Messina. Worse still, all of this has occurred within the silence of the Prefecture of Messina, who in other public officers had emphasised the worrying situation within the “sister” structure at Bisconte, the tent-city established in October 2013 within the old baseball field of the University at Conca d’Oro, Annunziata, as well as the silence of the local administration itself, which on more than one occasion has declared an intention to convert the old military complex into a housing centre.
No numbers are contained in the tender relating to the future capacity of the centre of “first reception”, but according to rumours leaked over the past months it is possible that the hub in Bisconte will hold between 500 and 1000 migrants at a time. The EU, Frontex and the government are advancing with that which will be interpreted in years to come as an intervention of “containment”, and the management of the migratory flows – but it is foreseeable that the former barracks at Messina will be given the same function as the centres currently at Mineo, Pozzallo and Lampedusa, that is, the near-detention of migrants awaiting their relocation and expulsion. In the European context these buildings have been identified with the unsettling term “Hotspot”. Under the jurisdiction of the Agency for the control of EU frontiers EASO, and the European police agency, migrants are subjected identification operations as soon as they are disembarked, including photo-identification and the forced taking of finger prints, “so as to complete a screening which distinguishes asylum seekers from those who are to be deported.”
Several months ago Bisconte was reconverted into a “Centre of Very First Welcoming” for unaccompanied foreign minors, in clear violation of laws and international rights, and with the blame resting entirely with the Prefecture of Messina (as well as the necessary collaboration of the local council). Scraped down walls and metal fences all over the place, external containers used for showers and toilets (see the photo above), only three large habitable rooms to house a hundred people in bunk beds lined up against each other, this structure is becoming one of the most shameful instances of solidarity and assistance in all of Italy. This really is a “camp”, dragged out of a horrendous past, where overcrowding, uncertainty and confusion reign, where the “residents” pass the days in a useless occupation of waiting for nothing. A limbo, a non-place for people the majority of whom have already suffered through this intolerable situation for months upon months. After an inspection on March 7th 2016, Borderline Sicilia reported that: “The structural features and the lack of services which characterise this centre represent a form of containment which not only stands in violation of people’s rights and dignity, but in the context of a prolonged stay also brings very serious consequences for migrants’ lives”. The same tone has been taken by reports from journalists, politicians and other NGOs such as the Campagna LasciateCIEntrare, the Migralab “A. Sayad” association, and ARCI.
Since December 1st the centre at Bisconte and the tent-city at Annunziata have been managed by the cooperative Senis Hospes in Senise, Potenza and Domus Caritatis in Rome, represented by the owner of the reconstruction business Benedetto “Benny” Bonaffini, a kingpin in the province’s migrant business. Back in June the two cooperatives won the bid from the Prefecture for the hosting of adult migrants (on the basis of €30/day for each “guest”, for the duration of one year) but the official transfer took place only a month ago. Senis Hospes and Domus Caritatis
presented a business plan with a discount of 10% (€26.79/migrant) and a technical offer of 53.4 points out of 60. Along with the precarious structures of the “camps” at Bisconte and at Annunziata, the two cooperatives – who are at the centre of various inquiries by both courts and journalists – have inherited hundreds of unaccompanied foreign minors from the previous managing body, who according to the rules should receive an entirely different kind of reception, far more constrained by national regulations and with a expenditure of no less than €45/day.
In this “emergency”, however, anything is possible, even the violation of fundamental human rights, of the law and of common sense. With this Hub-Hotspot 2017, Messina has selected itself as an experimental laboratory for the most modern and ruthless practices of extinguishing people’s identities and needs.
Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus
Translation: Richard Braude