Migrants’ protest in Caltagirone: general frustration for the never-ending delay.

Since several days the guests of the SPRAR centre “Il Geranio”, located in via Rosario Pitrelli, in a big villa strategically placed far away from the residential area, are protesting to obtain news concerning the advancement of their refugee status request. In answer to this protest, the mayor Nicola Bonanno, and the assessor to Social Services, Chiara Gulizia, sent a document asking to remove 11 Nigerian citizens, who presumably instigated the protest, fomenting also the other guests of the centre. A few miles away, the migrants of the SPRAR of Grammichele, blocked up garbage containers in the street towards contrada “Bisamore”. The SPRAR of Grammichele is managed by the cooperative “ San Francesco – 4 ottobre” which together with “Il Geranio” are part of the big family of the consortium “Il Sol.co”. These news were published in the newspaper “La Sicilia”, the 6th of September. Apparently migrants showed their frustration and demonstrated against the very long delay to obtain information concerning their request; the missed delivery of the monthly pocket money (46.50 € per month) and also against the inedible food supplied to them.

I go to Caltagirone around 11 am. I am received by a Nigerian young man riding a bike. He introduces me to one of the social operators who used to work in the centre, but now just goes there to bring basic necessities. According to the operator “The centre is occupied”, “after the last protests we cannot approach it anymore. We asked the transfer of the most undisciplined guys who instigate also the others, but we are still waiting for an answer from the prefecture. Doing our job became impossible”. He tells me that he cannot prevent me to get inside and talk with the guests but he advises me not to, because “they are very upset”. We move towards the nearest service station and the operator puts me through the responsible of the centre. The latter explains me that he understands migrants’ frustration but the lack of respect it is not to be tolerated. “We cannot do more than what we already do! the Commission of Siracusa is overwhelmed. They are still reviewing September 2013 applications”. He adds that the centre was born as a SPRAR. In that, it was meant to be a second reception centre. Nevertheless, due to the lack of available places in CAS centres, it hosted also people who came in November 2013 as guests in first reception and who automatically passed to second reception in February 2014. “Two separate phases have been mixed, which require different procedures. This can only engender management troubles”, says the responsible, and he explains me that migrants would like to be moved in other centres in the North of Italy, because they think that the procedure would be faster there. “Between us and them the relationship is broken, they don’t trust us anymore. Nevertheless, while waiting for the situation to change, we carry on bringing them three daily meals, cleaning products and other basic necessities”.

According to Dr. Anfuso, who is the responsible for SPRAR centres at the Social Services department of Caltagirone, that very afternoon a group of asylum seekers showed up in front of the department. Apparently, they wanted either to be informed about the date of the audition with the local Commission for the acknowledgement of international protection or, as an alternative, to be immediately transferred to another centre outside Sicily. According to Dr. Anfuso, the municipality of Caltagirone cannot provide these informations nor it can adopt any measure concerning migrants’ transfer. It seems that the picketers put up a fight, since not all of them agreed on the transfer. This fight was kept under by the police and by a traffic officer who were both injured. Meanwhile, according to the newspaper “La Sicilia”, in the centre “Il Geranio”, asylum seekers of two different nationalities –Senegal and Nigeria- put up a fight, which was suppressed by four policemen. The riot went on during the night in via San Bartolomeo, the street towards the SPRAR. The same group of asylum seekers protested, preventing cars normal circulation and breaking a driver’s windscreen on San Bartolomeo bridge.

As Dr. Anfuso clarifies, the protests started the 24th of August and the Social Services Department of Caltagirone is waiting for an answer from the Prefecture concerning the transfer of the asylum seekers who are responsible for the mentioned problems. “For us it is very difficult to get a clear answer from the Commission. The situation is getting unmanageable. An immediate solution would be desirable.”

Beatrice Gornati
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translated by Alessandra Mancini