Mineo Cara (Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers) : a meeting place for different populations or the denial of their rights?

The two day “Carafest 2012” finished yesterday at Mineo: there were information stands, performances, theatre, food tasting, fashion shows, concerts and debates.
It’s necessary to ask the governor, the Honourable Castiglione, what there is to celebrate in a place like the largest Cara in Europe; what can possibly interest the asylum seekers and the Mineo citizens about inter-religious debates and speeches on Judaism or seminars on political integration and the process of reception when the situation in the megaCara is becoming ever more unsustainable, is a mystery that can only be justified by the hypocrisy of show and performance. Yet it cannot hide the bitter reality.

In Catania during the night of the 28th June, the shameful collective refoulement to Egypt of 60 migrants, which denied them access to the asylum procedure, took place. Days do not go by when shipwrecks do not occur and the Mediterranean is fast becoming a marine cemetery. On a national level, from Trentino Alto Adige to Calabria, asylum seekers who have escaped Lybia are mobilising themselves to obtain humanitarian protection. They are denouncing the squandering favouritism of public money for the North African emergency and they are also denouncing the attempt to choke experiences, arisen through the boycotting of financial support (since the beginning of 2012), of the genuine social insertion of asylum seekers and refugees. Such social insertion has been seen in Riace and other towns in the Locride area of Calabria and furthermore, it can be carried out at a greatly reduced cost compared to that of the Mineo megaCara.
With respect to last year, when from the 10th May to the 27th July, the asylum seekers at the Mineo Cara carried out 4 protests in 3 months in an attempt to accelerate the processing times of the Commission, the situation by and large, hasn’t changed:
—The situation has actually got worse regarding the time taken by the Commission examining asylum requests. Since last September, only one has been functioning with an average of 30 to 35 cases a week. While last summer the number of cases examined was at least the double. Furthermore, there have been more incidents of corrupt interpreters, who accept money from the migrants to “soften” the examination of the Commission. Nearly all the migrants have also complained about the poor interpreting service, which can also contribute to rejections (with percentages which are higher than 50%).
—Living conditions under the new management, the Sisifo Consortium and CaraMineo (which have been confirmed for all of 2012), have in part improved with respect to the daily standards when the Cara was run by the Red Cross (up until the 16th October 2011); the exhausting queues have been reduced, but the ban remains on kitchens in the houses (not only have the internal kitchens been deactivated “for security reasons”, but the external barbecues are also out of bounds), thereby maintaining the centre’s food business with meals that continue to provoke numerous cases of gastro- intestinal disturbances. With much less, it would be possible for the asylum seekers to manage their own food according to their traditions and tastes; furthermore the military continue to carry out random searches and confiscations of food that “could” be cooked inside.
Transport links with Mineo and the other nearby towns are a problem; with regard to the disgraceful €2 request for a return journey to Mineo when the migrants received no daily allowance, for the last few months there is a free bus service- yet there is only one service with 50 places and the return journey is also in the morning. This means the vast majority of the migrants are forced to go to Mineo (11kms) on foot.
The migrants have suspended their protests in the last couple of months (last August hundreds of migrants were “voluntarily” transferred to other Caras- except for a day of protest in March). This, however, does not mean that they are satisfied with having to stay parked indefinitely in the luxury concentration camp (how come a private village belonging to Pizzarotti di Parma was chosen, for which an annual rent of approximately € 6 million is transferred- which works out at € 10 per person per day?). Through the exploitation of the North African emergency of last year which saw migrants coming from Tunisia or escaping the war in Lybia (who cost the tax payer double compared with those involved in the SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees) project), we are assisting the proliferation of other lavish experiences and practices of favouritism of the mini Cara and the CDA (Reception Centres)(which are often managed by incompetent personnel interested only in the business aspect of pseudo-reception).
There are currently more than 1800 migrants in the Mineo Cara, the majority of whom are in the process of appealing against rejections for asylum. Yet the Catania Bar Council continue to deny the asylum seekers access to legal aid, maintaining they do not recognise their identity documents which are issued by the Catania Police Headquarters; furthermore often the rejection does not recognise that the migrants have arrived from Lybia, but only takes into consideration their country of birth, and so thousands of asylum seekers are effectively being held hostage in Italy by the inhumane segregating politics of the ex-Minister Maroni and the current government. The minister Cancellieri has communicated the economic difficulties the government are facing, which make cuts in social spending (health, pensions, schools) in order to save the banks.
Since the beginning of this lavish venture and practice of favouritism, the Catania Anti-Racist Network together with other associations maintain that the way of real Reception (which is certainly not the current practice of free-flowing funding and newborn local bipartisan associations) is diametrically opposed to a Centre of segregation far away from an inhabited centre. It is through a multiplication of SPRAR projects in the towns and villages around Caltagirone and throughout Sicily, which would also bring about great reductions in costs, that a genuine social insertion of the migrants would be favoured- for these reasons we continue to fight for the closure of the Mineo megaCara. We appeal to the media to turn the spotlight to the dramatic reality of the asylum seekers and to avoid following the “Authorities” in order to acritically justify their actions. We also invite the media to adhere to the petition for the permit of stay for all asylum seekers coming from Lybia (http:www.meltingpot.org/articolo17149.html) and to relaunch the mobilisation of support for their “right to choose” to build a future free from war and racism.
Ct 17/7/2012 Catania Anti- Racist Network