Migrant Sicily Newsletter, August 2016

  • Militarisation and Disorganisation: Exhausting and Inefficient Landing Operations, At Migrants’ Expense
  • Welcoming the Dead, Rejecting the Living
  • The Failed Reception of Unaccompanied Minors, Caught Between Isolation, Indifference and Violence
  • Asylum Seekers and Unaccompanied Minors in the Limbo of the Old and New Emergency Reception Centres
  • Info and Contacts

Militarisation and Disorganisation: Exhausting and Inefficient Landing Operations, At Migrants’ Expense

The 120 migrants who arrived at Lampedusa, and the 655 who disembarked at Palermo on the Diciotti, were received, as is ever more frequently the case, via a bureaucracy which is not prepared to provide them with dignity. On the rescue ships, while waiting for the identification procedures at the port and in the police stations for the taking of finger prints, the migrants sit on the ground, watched over from above by those who decide their future.


At the port of Palermo 1169 people arrived, having been saved by the military vessel Garibaldi. The landing, which was significantly delayed, unfolded slowly and tiringly, with an ever heavier atmosphere of tension emanating from the hostile words and gesture of the soldiers and police. The landing operation, undertaken in conditions of total institutional disorganisation, was interrupted at 2am, and 400 migrants were forced to spend the whole night on the deck of the ship.


A still worse situation was seen at the port of Messina, where the landing operations – having begun on the afternoon of August 30th – did not finish until 9pm on Thursday 1st September, 48 hours after it had commenced. The fear is that, with the reception centres collapsing, these “deferred” disembarkings are turning the rescue ships into “floating Hotspots”, where the migrants can be divided up according to their nationalities, far from the spotlight, so that they can be deported out of sight of watching eyes.

Welcoming the Dead, Rejecting the Living

Five bodies arrived at Trapani, victims of the sea, including two Syrian children. The body of one baby girl was missing, who died in her father’s arms, who had to leave her in order to save his other child and other children at risk of drowning. Another story of pain, generosity, tears and salvation which the media simply does not tell, along with so many other stories of those who survive and now – in a mix of resignation, hope and protest – wait to exit from the limbo in which their own future is congealing.

In Pozzallo, where two landings took place in the space of only two days, and with the arrival of first 473 and then 692 people, the Hotspot is collapsing. For weeks there have been dozens of unaccompanied foreign minors there, male and female, detained illegally and without appropriate divisions between men and women, adults and children. Yet in the end the EU has expressed, via the words of the Vice-Commissioner Timmermans, the political will to increase rejections and deportations, and to close the borders. In the process, it turns its back on those who are fleeing war and misery, and ignores the voices of those who, having already survived the desert, the traffickers and the perils of the sea, are packed onto an airplane bound for the land from which they had come, far away from any hope in the future.


The Failed Reception of Unaccompanied Minors, Caught Between Isolation, Indifference and Violence

The lack of serious and systematic planning for the organisation of the reception system, and the positioning of Emergency Reception Centres in places far from any inhabited centres continues to create situations in which the social inclusion of foreign minors, and their interaction with the local community result extremely difficult. The young migrants suffer from isolation and organise protests, or escape so as “not to go mad”, in a climate of indifference and intolerance which leads to serious episodes of violence, such as that which, at San Cono, saw 4 young Egyptians violently attacked by some young men from the area.



Asylum Seekers and Unaccompanied Minors in the Limbo of the Old and New Emergency Reception Centres

Based on the analysis of data collected in the course of Borderline Sicilia’s monitoring project of the Emergency Reception Centres in the capital and province of Palermo, it has emerged that the Emergency Reception Centres (established to deal with the lack of posts in ordinary structures, if there was need, and then for people to be inserted into the normal reception system afterwards) are places in which the sticky web of bureaucracy woven by a blind state, leaves asylum seekers to languish for years, in eternal waiting for their future to begin once again after its Italian interruption. In the meantime, they slowly slip into the quicksand of invisibility which makes them easy prey for the black market, for mafia manpower and for exploitative sex work.



The latest emergency response to the difficulties of managing the new arrivals has come with the passing of a new legal decree which gives power for the creation of new CAS for foreign unaccompanied minors, as is taking place in the province of Ragusa. The risk is that, in this manner, the proposal of a redistribution of minors throughout the country, and the possibility of their being entrusted (for their protection and own interests) to local councils other than those where they first arrive, will now run aground in the face of strong economic interests bound to the management of new centres.

Info and Contacts

For information on how to donare to Borderline Sicilia Onlus – Banca Etica Popolare di Palermo Agenzia di Via Catania, 24 IBAN IT 28 Q 0501804600000000141148 Codice BIC CCRTIT2T84A – and for updates on the current situation of migration in Sicily see the blog:

www.siciliamigranti.blogspot.com or follow our Facebook page:


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Translation: Richard Braude