We are stealing the hope – No welcoming in the area of Trapani.

La strada per arrivare al
Residence Marino.

“I find myself closed in this place, waiting for a document to get me a job that will give me the opportunity to send money home; I find myself thinking entire days about my family that I have disappointed and have not seen for more than a year; why do I have to wait all this time? Because in Italy, you are very slow to understand that we need freedom, work, and then, for eating and sleeping, we do take care by ourselves? You keep us all this time here, closed, like in a jail because you exploited us and earn a lot of money and us, we meanwhile die slowly, you are good, even at stealing our hope”, David, Nigeria.

This is one of many complaints/protests that we record when we meet migrants outside or inside the centers. It is an aspect on which many point the finger: the bureaucratic slowness that makes people impatient and leads to many protests by stealing the hope of the majority of the people that we “lock up” in places that put a strain on even the strongest.

La strada per arrivare al
Residence Marino.

Unfortunately, we continue to receive phone calls of protests from many areas, from Palermo to Trapani, from Catania to Agrigento to Ragusa, always with the same requests for help. “THERE, ‘NOBODY LISTENS TO US.” We can actually confirm that the main problem in the cases of “good will” is listening, the will of workers, mediators and managers, to sit next to a “guest” and to listen. All this happens perhaps in the early days of the opening of a center but after a month the music changes, so do not change the needs of the Nigerian, Gambian, Pakistani or Malian guys or others and “the managing body” gets impatient, nervous, becomes silent and in some cases does no longer appear at the center for some time, for various reasons. Primarily because he or she doesn’t probably have to communicate anything, given the biblical times of Territorial Commissions, second, because in many cases the preparation of the workers is inadequate, and finally, because in some cases, there is an underlying racism that does not allow a dialogue.

The non-welcoming within Italy is entrusted to the ‘‘recycled cooperatives‘‘ (before they supplied services) or converted (before they were senior centers) and even housing centers for native children which now receive only unaccompanied minors, but as we got often told before, farm or hotels which from one day to the other have “felt” to be called towards hospitality.

And this is the emblematic case, for example, of hotel Acos Marsala, where the property is managed by the cooperative ‘‘Vivere Con‘‘, who has been doing this reception for years as hotel and CAS*. The cooperative has welcomed immigrants in 2009 and then continued with its tourist activity. I believe depending on the tourist flow or the flow of migrants, or even due to agreements with the properties of the structure; we were not able to ascertain due to a lack of response by the entity manager. The last tourist who writes from Acos hotel dates back to last May (it’s sufficient to search on Google for opinions of tourists on the hotel as for any other touristic facility), and from 1 June 2014 on, the structure has been converted back to CAS by the cooperative ‘‘Vivere Con‘‘. From that moment on the employees who had been interacted with tourists until 31 May, have been catapulted into an unknown and very different world, as Pietro, manager of the facility, tells us. Since that day, 1 June 2014, many migrants have passed from the hotel and from the hotel Concorde Acos (still run by the same cooperative and always in Marsala), and currently there are about 130 people in a state of neglect, or rather this is the feeling that they live and that prompted them to contact us. Many are undocumented (almost all) and after 10-11 months, almost no one has an appointment for an audition in the committee. Even more dramatic is the situation of a high number of people who have not yet formalized the asylum request by filling out the form C3 after 4-5 months. This delay is very serious and the reasons are to be found in the difficulties of the police headquarters in Marsala (and beyond) to raise the funds for cultural mediators as a result of the cuts. But in the end the applicants are the ones that pay for the poor managing ability of our politicians and rulers, without considering the enormous waste of public resources in keeping hundreds of people parked in a legal and existential limbo.

Obviously, the situation is critical because of these bureaucratic obstacles and to the huge problem that people feel caged due to the inutility in which they are forced to live that period of time, is to be added the fact that there is a director who hasn’t been present for a long time. The Migrants we met said he wouldn’t have come for the least three months, a fact, belied by the present mediator that did not want to give us more information. So the migrants feel abandoned and they think that the delays are caused by the management. We also met at least a dozen of young boys who told us that they were minors and who have never met a lawyer and claim that no one ever told them about this right.

We found another serious situation experienced by minors in Trapani in the structure “Residence Marino.” In the past, it had been a IPAB* that housed elderly in a small corner of paradise, while today it has become for minors and adult asylum seekers a jail under the open sky.

The building, which houses in the top floor around 18 unaccompanied minors in two housing communities managed by the social cooperation ‘‘Dimensione Uomo 2000‘‘, had been opened in February 2014. Downstairs there are about 100 migrants managed by IPAB, which converted to “migration” in June 2014 (therefore 3-4 months after the presence of community housing who pays a rent to IPAB for use of the spaces).

In this really big structure there are minors and adults, with creates problems for the institutions managing the different structures and with problems of promiscuity between upstairs and downstairs. The management of IPAB mainly talks about logistic problems regarding the presence of migrants often from other centers, who can come and hide, given the size of the structure, without being noticed.

But the most problematic issue is in our opinion (confirmed by the Management) the location of the structure, which is in a place far away from the town, not connected by public transport so that even if they wanted to, they can not get close to the city-center because the street from the Ronciglio pier to the hotel is bumpy. Cars easily break (a 4×4 would be needed), we are talking about a completely impractical street, not lightened and full of stray dogs and with the winter rains, the situation has worsened a lot, making the area a swollen river.

As for an example, the boys of the housing communities can not go to school because the van used for the ride has repeatedly broken down and is now waiting to be repaired for the umpteenth time.

The minors do not only feel caged, but none of the Captaincy, Municipality, Prefecture and IPAB can think of an intervention to improve traffic flow and to provide the opportunity for the minors to move freely (there is an ongoing dispute since 2002).

All this has led to continuous protests by adult guests of IPAB but also by minors of the housing community.

Unfortunately, the protests are many, not only in Trapani, but also and especially in Palermo where the protesters are not only the migrants present in CAS, but also in SPRAR* (both managed by the same consortium Sol.co). The last protest unfortunately degenerated and four Nigerians in the structure of Borgetto – CAS “Vogliamo Volare” – were arrested. It should be noted that it was not the first time in this structure that migrants protested against both the condition of the structure and the attitude of the workers. Particularly boys repeatedly complained about the lack of interest of workers for their health condition and denounced the lack of accompaniment to healthcare facilities for visits already booked. We found out that some health centers of ASP Palermo actually contacted the management regarding unattended appointments of the kids.

Obviously all of these conditions of stagnation and dissatisfaction create a vacuum and facilitate violent actions as happened in Borgetto.

But we wonder at what extend do we bear the blame towards these people from whom we continue to steal the hope?

Alberto Biondo

Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation: Catherine Scholz

*CAS: extraordinary reception centres

*IPAB: Public Institute for Assistance and Charity

*SPRAR: protection facilities for asylum seekers and refugees