The two faces of the reception of refugees in Geraci Siculo
In the nursing home Parri Vecchio SRL (LTD), about 40 applicants are accommodated for international protection. When I arrived in the early afternoon, no one answered the door. Downstairs, I meet seven seniors sitting on chairs aligned along the wall, and rest. The sleeping young man on the sofa seems to be the only potential employee. After I woke him up, I try explaining to him who I am and what I do. The man is from Romania and takes care of the elderly. He speaks neither Italian nor English well, and he only understands that I am involved in immigration.
Without any problems, he leads me into the courtyard of the facility where I meet the asylum applicants. The men have been in Italy for several months and as they are tired to tell someone their problems, they walk away. The “new arrivals” state that they have arrived on 5 or on 17 September. While the first group is still waiting to be identified and to submit their fingerprints, the second group has already done this the minute they arrived at the port. The refugees complain about not having received any clothes and are cold. After the reception I was given, I am trying to find out when employees are to be found in the centre. The refugees say that no one works here during the night. “To whom do you turn when a problem occurs, in an emergency or if someone does not feel good,” I ask. They answer that nothing happened at night so far but that they did not know to whom they can turn in an emergency. Then they ask me for a phone number for emergencies. Upon their arrival, they never had the chance to tell their story. And when I asked about psychological support, they acted surprised.
As I speak with the group of refugees, a man turns up who introduces himself as an employee. A moment later, a member of the Parri Vecchio SRL appears. Her name is Ilene. She introduces the facility as an initial reception centre. The Parri Vecchio SRL opened as a nursing home in 2008 and has also been active in the immigration sector since 2011. Since October 2013, the facility is a primary care and initial reception centre. However, according to Ilene’s descriptions, the centre seems to be a mixture of a primary care and initial reception centre (CPSA) and a protection facility for asylum seekers and refugees (SPRAR). Thanks to a community project, this way, the residents had the opportunity to work, i. e. for the city cleansing. However, the centre is an extraordinary reception centre (CAS).
Although the maximum capacity of the facility comprises 65-70 people, up to 90 migrants were temporarily housed here. Ilene says that she complained to the prefecture about the long stay (over a year) of some residents in her facility. The prefecture has justified long stays by the fact that they did not expect such a huge influx of refugees, and that the protective facilities for asylum seekers and refugees have no space available. As a result, the transfer of 40 men to Piemont was organised.
The descriptions of Ilene are far beyond from the reports of overcrowding and relocations, so I have heard from employees of another centre in the area. According to the employee of another facility, over a hundred migrants were accommodated in the nursing home for a while until the health authorities have informed the prefecture about the alarming situation. The prefecture solved the problem by relocations to other facilities. It was also reported to me that the inhabitants of the Parri Vecchio were left to themselves which has led to them staying up late at night in the summer at the meeting points of the locals and have often failed to meet the usual rest period in the village.
Italian courses and pocket money are the services that are offered in the centre. Someone explains to me that in the case of nightly incidents, an employee of the nursing home (the man of Romanian descent I have already met) is on duty on the ground floor. However, not all residents seem to know about it. Normally, clothes are also distributed (sports suit, socks, T-shirts, underwear, shoes) as I am being assured. Only the last arrivals have received only a T-shirt, underwear and socks. The reason for this is the financially precarious situation of the Ltd which has to wait for the contract extension. At the end of our conversation, Ilene is informed by phone that there will be no extension of the contract. A few minutes, after I left the institution, I run into Ilene and the employee at a coffee shop in the village.
Translated by Aylin Satmaz
Editor’s note: Madonie is a mountain range, 55km east of the capital Palermo.