The Extraordinary Reception Centre for Women in Poggioreale: Vulnerabilities Left Unprotected

women, one with a 1-year-old child.

women, about whom no one speaks.

women, of whom 3 are pregnant.

adult women along with 3 young girls.

are talking about the women housed in the only Extraordinary
Reception Centre (CAS*) for women in the Province of Trapani,
situated in Poggioreale and managed in fits and start by the “New
Horizons” (Nuovi
cooperative since July 2014.

managing body of a former centre for the elderly, of which only the
sign remains, closed its gates in January 2015 to only reopen them
and recommence activity with the exact same difficulties as always,
to the extent that – as the president informed us – if they do
not receive money from the Prefecture soon they will be forced to
close yet again.

women currently at the centre are all Nigerian, both adults and
minors, with the single exception of a South American woman,
supported as particularly vulnerable.

closure of the other centre for women in the Province of Trapani, the
Armonia CAS*, the Poggioreale centre, as is the case with so many of
the more isolated centres, is being used by the Prefecture as an
experimental location in which both adults and minors of the same
nationality – especially Nigerian, but not only – are housed
together. Some of the guests have small children or are women in a
state of extreme vulnerability, and most of them are at risk of being
trafficked. It seems that this practice collides with some kind of
rule regarding the safeguarding of minors and the vulnerable!

serious situation of inappropriate mixing which we are flagging up is
explained by the centre as being the result of a decision by the
institutions, which they have to follow: the emergency reception of
minors in CAS* for adults since June 2016. This situation is only the
latest evidence of the Italian reception system’s failure. Since June
2016, dozens of young women have been transferred to Poggioreale, to
an isolated centre, in which the only activity is to weave beautiful
and colourful braids, but at the same time in a mountain hostel with
less than a thousand inhabitants and an average age of 70. Running
away from the centre has become the rule, even if you have a
wheelchair. You flee from doing nothing at all.

couple of weeks’ ago, in fact, a young Eritrean woman left the centre
at Poggioreale in a wheelchair. The difficulties she had met are
innumerable: she had had no possibility to communicate with anyone,
being the only Eritrean among a dozen Nigerian women, who spoke not
even a single word of her own language (Tigrinya) and who could not
make herself understood due to the lack of a mediator. The only way
the workers could communicate with her was to take her to
Castelvetrano to meet up with a mediator who helped her to
communicate on a voluntary basis.

women in the centre share boredom and a general lack of documents,
they are women who have nightmares of their past abuse. Some of them
have been at the centre for a year already, and only five of them
have had their hearing in the Territorial Commission for the
recognition of international protection, while the others will only
complete their C3 form (the request for asylum) at the end of the
month. One of the residents had her hearing in December 2015 and is
still awaiting a response due (according to the centre’s
psychologist) to communication problems between the Commissions in
Trapani and Palermo.

to the centre’s psychologist, “to keep a woman here, who doesn’t
want to be here, for more than a year is too complicated, and the
state of frustration is terrible”. We met her together with the
social worker and the president of the cooperative, who complained
about an 8-month delay in payments from the Prefecture. In no
uncertain terms he claims that the Extraordinary Reception Centres
have by now become the Ministry’s cash machines, given that they are
not paid for so long, and that they have to keep up the residents
despite these difficulties.

Extraordinary Reception Centre for adults, as the workers point out,
has great difficulties as the centre also has to find legal guardians
for the young women and undertake other activities which were not
previously foreseen. Thus the social worker is forced to interact
with the Court for Minors. Furthermore, the minors have the centre’s
lawyer as their guardian: a clear case of incomparability which as
always is carried out in the name of emergency, and as an alternative
to the nominating of the mayor as the guardian, who does not even
accompany the minors for medical visits. A pregnant 17-year-old
Nigerian woman, for example, went for a hospital visit and the doctor
refused to follow her case because there was no legal guardian
present, who was, in fact, the mayor.

frustration of those who live in the centre, along with their long
waiting and the thwarted desire to live a normal woman’s life, wear
down the souls and lead to consequent protests. The last such protest
was three weeks’ ago, following which three of the residents left the
centre, losing their right to a place in the reception system. Since
the centre opened, there have been 12 revokings of places from
residents at Poggioreale. And the only alternative then becomes to be
hosted by a friend or to find a place on the street, situations of
high risk for a woman, especially for Nigerians. The situation
becomes even more dramatic when the young women leave the centre
having decided that the street provides a remedy to the clear
incompetence of the state.



“OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline
Sicilia Onlus

= Centro di Accoglienza Straordinario (Extraordinary Reception

by Richard Braude