Who is doomed to pay?

Breaking news concerning migrants and their reception in Sicily refer almost without exception to the economic aspect of the matter. Funds, delays, advance payments, missed payments and protests are daily events put on the agenda. Only few days ago, the mayor of Pozzallo declared all his disdain and repentance as he found out about the 20.000€ which the city of Lampedusa received from the CIPE, while no funding has been foreseen for his city.
In an interview, the first citizen of Pozzallo has declared his willingness to firmly continue his protest and to impose himself so that in this case the number of 200 presences will not be exceeded. His request is legitimate, if we consider that the capacity of the centre lays by 180 persons, though it nevertheless comes from financial problems, and not from the understanding of the rights of the migrants to be granted a decent treatment in every moment of their stay in Europe, as the law foresees, rather than being clumped by hundreds in the centres. In the meantime the management of the CPSA* from Pozzallo has been assigned to the company Azione Sociale until 30 June, with an agreement foreseeing the assignment of 45 euro per migrant in the first day of their stay (to cope with the expenses due for the supply of linen and sanitary kit in case of immediate transfer) and of 35 euro for the following days. The hope is always that of a positive improvement, given the fact that the workers are currently awaiting the payslips of the last six months, which were due from the previous management; this fact does not obviously contribute to the establishment of optimal working conditions.

In the meantime migrants continue to arrive, and yesterday, after two arrivals within 24 hours, the personnel of the CPSA had counted the presence of 400 people. Another impressive arrival took place in Augusta, where among the 286 refugees there was also the corpse of a young man, who most likely died because of asphyxiation. Another person who paid with her life the price of liberty, decided by others, and whose death does not even make sensation anymore. On the contrary, for many the solitude goes on even after having been dead. As for the victims of the last shipwreck, for which the debate between those who believe the rescue of the corpses and remains to be too expensive and those who hold up the right of the migrants to be granted a decent burial is still very passionate, as well as the importance of an inquiry able to help everybody and shed light on a foreseeable tragedy.

There is a lot of talk about money, but it is not clear who is compelled to pay at the end of the day. In several structures in the province of Catania, the operators are left without pay and are forced to work “for free” for now more than half a year.

The same desperate situation affects the member of the cooperative company S. Giuseppe, an entity based in Ramacca and managing an accommodation for foreign and italian minors.

The structure hosts 10 pupils currently, both Italians (2) and from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Gambia and Mali, most of whom have been transferred from the the centre Papa Giovanni di Priolo. The responsible of this community tells me on how the financing, initially coming from an agreement with the regional government, which since January 2015 gave the competence for foreign nationals to the Minister of Interior, has been blocked in July 2014. In a situation of extreme financial distress which the cooperative finds itself in, the first decision has been that of closing one structure and keeping only the other one running; nevertheless the missing earnings force all members, administrator included, to work in shifts as personnel of the structure without remuneration; moreover it has caused the shortening of the pocket money and other services for the guests. It looks like that the unaccompanied minor refugees have been supported in the fundamental questions, such as documents, the filling in of the C3 form (a digital procedure required by the Italian Ministry for the acknowledgment of the international protection status), the management of the meeting in the commission, the custody to a tutor and the organization of alphabetization courses; nevertheless such a context necessarily implies serious difficulties in following up the whole process of integration as foreseen for minors with competence and precision, which cannot be overcome with good will alone.

D., originally from Gambia, arrived in Ramacca last January, after having spent 4 months in Priolo. Here he has eventually started his procedure for being granted international protection, but he certainly found himself in another state of uncertainty, maybe even more difficult to understand, given the fact that there is not even the support usually given by international organizations such as Terres Des Hommes, which in the centre Papa Francesco can offer a team of etnopsychiatrics and operators specialized in socialization techniques. Apart from some operators of the centre and 2-3 minors from the centre with whom he became friend, D. is confronted now with the loneliness and the boredom of a small village and of a community where there is no real help for integration, and little attention towards his future and where you must consider yourself lucky if you get few euros to recharge your cellphone.

In the meantime the situation in the centre for underaged Regina Elena in Catania does not improve either. After a staged protest few weeks ago, the residents have been left without pocket money since March, with an irregular distribution in the months before that too. Similarly, the working conditions of the operators, awaiting their payslip since 16 months, do not create hope for a more serene atmosphere in the centre.

The issue seems to lay in the delayed reimbursement, which are due by the regional authority, the Ministry and the municipality, as the manager of the centre, Dr. Ursino stated anew recently; she affirms to be unable of acting differently. “If there is no money, it is mathematically impossible to arrange for the pocket money. Also the fact that the operators are forced to work without retribution for months becomes very binding in the management of the centre, since as a matter of fact they could refuse to provide their services every moment”. It looks like that there is no solution in this phase of extreme discomfort, while the continual protests by the operations and the supervisors are not able to unblock the situation, on the contrary they create vicious circles of resentment and grudge, which usually only move the attention away from the main problem. If for the managers of Ramacca “closing is not an option, in the very first place since we have been working for decades on this project and also because what should we do otherwise?”, for the management of the Regina Elena the main hope seems to be that the financing arrives in time before the employers´ getaway forces the managers to the closure of the centre.

Many concerns and only one certainty: among all actors involved, those who are surely forced to pay the price of every delay and nonfulfillment are the migrants, who have no other choice.

Lucia Borghi

Borderline Sicilia Onlus

*CSPA/CPSA – Centro di Soccorso e prima Accoglienza: Centre of first aid and first reception

Translation: Marco Baldan