Salinagrande: serious problems still persist despite an improvement in living conditions, police checks to “catch” irregular migrants increase

Conditions are still critical for many of the
Tunisians in Trapani.
After sustained pressure, the Salina CARA (Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers)
gave authorisation for the asylum seekers who were living outside the Centre to
enter. Since we started the monitoring project in February, we have met around
30 asylum seekers of different nationalities, who live in the countryside near
the Centre. They were sleeping in abandoned buildings, getting their drinking
water from public drinking fountains and eating whatever those inside the
Centre were able to give them. Now all of them have been accepted into the
CARA, even those who had been thrown out because they had had periods of
absence in order to look for work.
During our last visit on the 20th April, we
learnt from the migrants that the Cooperative running the CARA had authorised
the clean up of one of the buildings where the migrants stay. It was probably
done in order to limit the protests carried out by some of the Tunisians. The
building, which is property of the Church, was in very poor condition. The work
was carried out by 20 migrants, the majority of whom were asylum seekers, who
were waiting to enter the CARA. There have been some new arrivals in this
building, some very young migrants. They only turned 18 a few months ago but their
permits are about to run out. Referred to as “the kids”, they arrived
a year ago and were able to stay in family houses due to the fact they were
still under 18. However, as soon as they had their birthdays, they no longer
had the right to stay. They found some small odd jobs for a few months but
these did not last due to the impact of the economic crisis and now many of
them are afraid they won’t be able to renew their permits of stay and will therefore
become irregular migrants; more than anything they are afraid they will be
arrested and end up at Milo or be repatriated. They were living with another 10
migrants, all of whom are irregular. Yesterday, 28th April, the police carried
out a raid in the surrounding area, which triggered widespread panic. The irregular
migrants managed to escape, thereby avoiding being locked up in the CIE
(Immigration Detention Centre). The youngest ones stayed, they are regular, but
are very afraid. On more than one occasion in the past, young men of the same
age have become victims of organised crime and prostitution. Within the CARA,
complaints by the 64 Afghans and Pakistanis continue. They have all complained
about the fact they have been waiting for their appointment with the Commission
for more than 6 months. Most of them have their interviews scheduled for June
or July (they generally arrived at the CARA in October). Their biggest worry is
that they have spent the whole winter shut up in the CARA and now that the work
season in the fields is approaching, they still can’t leave the Centre as they
will risk missing their hearing with the Commission and losing the roof over
their heads. Their worries are not so much concerned with the acceptance or
even the application itself, as to what their prospects are for next winter.
Another common complaint concerns the Italian language lessons which are
offered inside the Centre. The three hours a week are not enough to allow the
residents to learn Italian, especially when it is difficult for them to leave
the Centre and put in practice what they have studied. For the many who are not
granted a permit, there is no alternative but to become ghosts and live the
life of the irregular migrant. Many of the irregular migrants have found
work in the fields near Marsala,
Gela and
Niscemi. Often the farmers prefer them to the regular migrants because they
work for less and they live in abandoned buildings or in the surrounding
countryside. These people are living completely illegally, in awful conditions,
with the constant fear that there will be a police raid which will lead to their
arrest and imprisonment in a CIE. And it is these people who are then termed
shifty and suspicious.

Giorgia Listi, Diana Pisciotta

See the video of before the CARA carried out the clean up.