The limbo of migrant minors: a story of six asylum seekers moved around Italy

As described in an article published the 19th September on the website “Argo”, once more unaccompanied foreigner minors pay the price of missed protection and rights violation. The 16th of September at 8 pm, the centre “Don Pino Puglisi” opened its doors to six asylum seekers between 16 and 17 years old. Out of those six, five come from Mali and one from Gambia. The centre, which is managed by the centre Astalli and that has been sporadically employed to receive vulnerable migrants, accepted the minors upon the request of Catania Prefecture. The boys arrived four months ago to Catania, where they stayed a few days before being moved in two different foster homes, managed by the same association. Four boys were housed in Casale Litta, in Varese District, and two in Benevento. In these two communities the boys started an educational path. Additionally, their dossiers for the acknowledgement of political asylum had been started. Then, something went wrong.

I go in via Federico Delpino around 1 am, with the aim to understand why six young asylum seekers had to start everything again after four months in Italy. It is like four months of bonds, friendships and integration had been erased. In entering the building I am received by Giuseppe Palazzo, who is the responsible of Astalli centre. The place is as clean and tidy as I left it the last time I was there. Three boys watch TV. A. says hello in English, he comes from Gambia and will turn eighteen in October. He tells me that he stayed in Senegal for six months and in Mali for three before reaching Catania and being brought to Benevento right away. We call the other guests who are studying in their room. We all sit in circle. I introduce myself and I collect their testimony. Although shy, some of them try to speak Italian. The Mali boys followed approximately all the same path to reach Italy, by going trough Algeria and sailing from Libya.

I try to understand how they feel after the sudden change in their life. “Both Varese and Catania are in Italy, we are happy to be here and we want to stay”, tells me M., who sits beside me. Giuseppe explains me that everyday from 4 to 6 pm the minors attend an Italian course in Astalli centre. Moreover, they are involved in recreational activities as much as possible, in order to promote integration inside the community. Currently, the centre employs a coordinator, an operator and a lawyer who takes care of the suspended asylum request dossiers and of providing the minors with a tutor. Everything is done in the uncertainty of the duration of their stay. According to the latest news, minors should stay approximately for other ten days and then be moved in another unknown location. According to the responsible “The District is keen on moving the boys all in the same location, in order to maintain the bonds that were created. This is just an intermediate phase, waiting for a new placement”.

I leave the centre through the greetings of the minors, who can finally leave their done up posture, stretch out on the sofa and play around, as it should be at their young age. I try to find out the reason of minors´removal from the foster families. Arturo Zitani, the educational responsible and coordinator of “La Crisalide lole” community, located in Casale Litta, answers my phone call and is immediately relieved by knowing that the minors he took care of are fine. “Bringing them to Catania was a great pain to me. I started their asylum request dossiers. Here they followed Italian courses and played football. There were no problems with the residents. On the contrary, they made friends with their Italian peers”, he tells me. He also explains me that the reception centre had to close not only due to the missed funds supply, but also due to an even more severe reason. “The mayor of Casale Litta was appointed as a tutor for the minors, but he repeatedly refused to take care of the “immigrants who came on rafts”. He repeatedly showed a discriminatory attitude that could seriously affect minors´ asylum request”. He is not able to provide me with any information concerning the reason why the other two minors were moved from Benevento centre, which is managed by his brother. “ I am disappointed for what has happened, but it is not possible to keep young migrants in a town where they are discriminated by the mayor himself. In 2014 this behavior is unacceptable!”

We hang up with the promise to keep him informed about the health of young Malians, being aware of the fact that unspeakable situations like these should not occur, but that sadly changing them still matters only to a few people.

Beatrice Giornati
Borderline Sicilia onlus

Translated by Alessandra Mancini