The CARA* at Mineo once again at the centre of investigations. And the numbers present continue to rise.

The investigations into the CARA* at Mineo, within the remit of “Mafia Capitale”, is producing new subpoenas for fraudulent misrepresentation and serious fraud, including the falsification of the number of migrants at the centre. The number has continued to rise in recent weeks, with new transfers following on from the disembarkings, not only at the ports of Catania and Augusta, but also Pozzallo, Trapani and Reggio Calabria. At the time of writing, the building houses around 3,500 people and explicitly carries out all the identification and selection procedures pertaining to the Hotspot approach, and seems also to be used as a Hub, given recent mass transferrals of Eritreans who have been agreed to relocation. It is thus simultaneous a location under investigation and also entrusted with a range of new functions, occurrences not only with no clear juridical regulation but, above all, even without pertaining to the duty of protecting migrants’ rights. It is a ghetto in the middle of nowhere, outside of which, week after week, the army and police forces multiply.

Every day we meet numerous refugees who live or pass through Mineo, ready to leave Sicily for other Italian cities via Catania station, or trapped in the open-air cage of the CARA, where their hopes of integrating themselves with people other than the personnel who work there is entrusted only to illegal taxi drivers or corporals and traffickers without any scruples, who are ready to exploit their desperation. The majority of them do not understand the reason for waiting, nor do they manage to find a logical explanation for the state of things: “I have been at Mineo almost one month. They brought me here from another port, by bus, at night. I remember only that as soon as I arrived I was registered, photographed, and then they explained to me that I had to be transferred to another country.” So ‘T’ tells us, an Eritrean citizen, aware that he has been placed in the relocation programme but of very little else. Many migrants who we meet, just like him, believe that they are in an obligatory relocation programme, without the option of being able to remain in Italy, and explain that they have completed the C3 form in Italian and not in English as they ought.

There seems to be very little information received, even in terms of the possibility of being reunited with families: “No one tells us that we can rejoin our family members. This is why many people don’t want to go to other European countries.” The management of such great numbers, the lack of attention to singular cases and incomplete information means, in a centre where the priority is still that of identification, division and providing statistics to Europe, to enter into a strategic game with migrants as pawns. Registering their presence and taking their fingerprints means to receive the correlating payment: these are the only practices undertaken scrupulously within the camp. If the majority of the new arrivals then leave, the only important thing is that they are replaced immediately. Individual protection is not guaranteed neither as a Hotspot nor as a Hub*, while maintaining a continuity of the clearly alarming practices found within the CARA* in recent years, where those who arrive are almost always end up in psychological collapse deriving from, on average, 18 months of a state of abandonment.

“I came to Italy a year ago. I’ve done my interview at the Commission and I received a negative, then I thought to follow some of my friends and go to Catania to find a lawyer. While I was speaking with him I realised that I hadn’t understood anything, neither my rights nor duties, and that I could have been able to find myself regular work” ‘G’ from Nigeria told us.

“I envy the Eritreans who at least get to leave here, even if they don’t go where they want to.” There are those who stay behind, those who are transferred to a place they do not want to be, and those who do not manage to remain: hundreds of men and women forced to follow an obligatory road, one designed on the basis of interests which are never their own.

*CARA – Centro di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo: reception centre for asylum seekers
*HUB – the new name for huge distribution centres for refugees

Translation: Richard Braude