Salinagrande, the Centre’s migrants bear the signs of beatings

Report, 11th-15th May 2012

Right from the very beginning of our monitoring of the Salinagrande CARA
(Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers) we have noticed that the management and the
employees of the Centre maintain a rather hostile stance particularly towards
the Tunisian community. The fact that Tunisians are considered an
“uncomfortable” migrant group in Italy is nothing new. It is largely
due to the fact that they come from a context which has made them aware of
their rights and made them inclined to make claims.

The so-called “North African Emergency” has directly led to
mass asylum rejections for Tunisian applicants here at the Centre, especially
for those who arrived after the 5th April 2011. For almost a year now, the
young men who fall into this category have repeatedly heard from those who
should be providing them with assistance that it is impossible for them to stay
in Italy
and that “they will be sent home soon.” This continued psychological pressure
only increases tension and creates difficulties amongst the residents in the
Centre. Verbal harassment is also accompanied by physical aggression.

According to various reports by different residents within the Centre,
there have been two beatings and cases of violence towards some of the
Tunisians who share a room.

The first was carried out by some of the Centre’s employees who burst
into the room during the night, grabbing and beating them, intimidating them into
leaving their room and make way for two families who had recently arrived at
the Centre.

Witnesses, who were not only Tunisian, insisted that the Tunisians were
never simply asked to leave the room and an arbitrary decision had been made to
approach the situation directly by storming into the room.

We are led to believe that the management took
such action because they find this group of people an uncomfortable presence.
In their country they have had the possibility to study and learn several languages
and many of them speak Italian well, which may be partly due to the
geographical closeness of the two countries or the fact they have been
motivated by the strong attraction our country holds for them. They are not
afraid to voice their criticisms of a system that doesn’t work, for example that
of the CARA.

This group interpret the dissent and the complaints which are widespread
among the Centre’s residents. Finding themselves in a strategic position as the
only ones who are able to communicate with the Italian speakers, the French
speakers and the English speakers, they are an obvious target. We are told that
some of them, including those who were thrown out of their room, were separated
from their friends and each put into different rooms with migrants of different

The second account of aggression came about as a result of this
separation. One night, while everyone was sleeping, they were once again assaulted
and thrown out of the room they were in. This time the perpetrators were
Afghans, who were the original occupants of the room where the two Tunisians
had just been transferred.

The Afghans were probably attempting to re-enact the fear caused by the
not infrequent night time police raids, which tend to involve the police waking
up the Tunisian residents in the middle of the night for questioning.

Once again, several witnesses maintain that the workers on duty did
nothing to intervene or calm the situation down, instead leaving the young men
at the mercy of their aggressors’ rage. One of the Tunisians had clear signs of
scratches and bruising even though he refused to seek treatment in the Centre’s

These episodes once again go to highlight the fact that the spirit of
reception which should guarantee asylum seekers a stress free environment, has
instead created a climate within the Centre which is even more tense and
unliveable. And all this occurs to those who have already been through ordeals,
difficult enough to make them leave their own country.

We would also like to draw attention to two Ghanians within the Centre
who have just turned 18 and recently arrived from the Salemi Centre for Minors. The two youngsters don’t speak Italian
despite the fact they have been in Italy for a year and have spent
this time in a Centre for unaccompanied minors which should guarantee an
integration programme, offering at the very least language lessons.

Finally, there is the problem of the asylum seekers who sleep outside
the CARA in rundown, abandoned buildings near the Centre. The conditions are
completely unsafe, many staying in old maintenance huts along the railway

Diana Pisciotta e Giorgia