[EN] On October 1st 2015, in the frame of a mission in Sicily and in Lampedusa with five MEP (GUE/NGL), the MEP Malin Björk visited, with the Italian NGO Arci, the temporary reception centre of Palaspedini in Catane (a closed-down stadium), and the identification and expulsion centre (CIE) and two reception centres for asylum seekers (CARA) in Caltanissetta.
Composition of the delegation: Malin Björk, Member of the European Parliament, Swedish Left, GUE/NGL Group in the EP, Sweden; Berit Dählström and Amanda Ahall, parliamentary assistants to MEP Malin Björk; Luca Scarpiello, parliamentary assistant to MEP Eleonora Forenza, Tsipras list, Italy, GUE/NGL group in the EP; David Lundy, communication officer, GUE/NGL Group in the EP; Amandine Bach, political adviser, GUE/NGL group in the EP; David Fedele, independent film director; Carmen Cordaro, lawyer, member of the association Arci and Open Access Now Campaign; Giuliana Sano and Rana Abu Rub, interpeters; Salvo Fruciano and Giovanni Marano, journalists.
“The visits clearly show that there are big challenges and that EU regulations are not always respected. The situation for unaccompanied minors are particularly worrying. But the situation of asylum reception in Italy, is clearly also a consequence of failing EU policies and regulations, and need political decision makers to take responsibility. We need to admit the failure and unacceptable effects of the Dublin regulation, and we need to de-militarize EU borders in order to free resources for improving the asylum reception processes and ensure that the rights of asylum seekers are fully respected.”
Malin Björk, MEP, Swedish Left Party, GUE/NGL in the EP
Temporary reception centre, Palaspedini stadium, Catania
When arriving at the Palaspedini stadium in Catania, it turned out that the police officers there (“carabinieri”) were not informed of our visit and told us we could not enter. After some explanation, it came out that in the specific case of the Palaspedini stadium, the request to visit the temporary centre has to be sent to the city of Catania and not to the prefecture, which is the normal procedure for CARA and CIE. This clearly showed to our delegation the lack of clarity of the responsibilities for the temporary centres that seem to be outside the “normal regulations”. The delegation had arrived around 10.00 and we were granted the right to enter only at 11.30 which caused some delay for the rest of the visits planned during the day. It is to note that this right was granted after phone calls of one Italian MEP (Eleonora Forenza) to the authorities as well as with officials of the city of Catania. All the delegation got access except the journalists who had to stay outside of the stadium.
Inside the stadium, the delegation discussed with 6 unaccompanied minors (UAM) who had been in the stadium since they were rescued at sea. They told the delegation they had been in the stadium for 10 days and were waiting for their transfer to an unaccompanied minor centre, but since they were told that such structures were full, they did not know when the transfer would take place. When they have been rescued, all the people who were on the same boat got transferred directly to the stadium (about 90 people, all men but one woman) but adults got transferred after 3 days to another place while they had to wait. While we were discussing with them, a social assistant from an UAM temporary centre came and said that she was here for the transfer. We had the clear impression that our presence made the transfer happen, but we can of course not prove this link. She explained to us that they would be transferred the same day to a temporary UAM centre near Catania, where they were supposed to stay maximum 3 days before their transfer to a permanent UAM centre. Carmen Cordaro, lawyer and member of Arci, who was with the delegation gave one of the UAM her card telling them to contact her when they would be in the centre so that she could follow up their case. When asked about their experience of sea crossing, the UAM told us that fortunately, nobody died during the crossing. They told us they did not have any life jacket nor satellite phone on the boat, and were saved by a Filipino Cargo Ship.
On the conditions in the stadium, the delegation tried to picture how it was to live 24/24 hours at 90 people, including one woman, which was clearly seen as non appropriate. The showers and toilets were quite old and dirty, mattresses had no bed sheets even only on the mattress. The UAM said they had not seen any NGO or lawyer since they arrived, they said that one person came to explain the specific situation of UAM, but they could not recall whom it was and were given no contact details by this person. The delegation questioned the fact that UAM were kept 10 days in a reception facility that is clearly not fit for anybody, and even worse for UAM.
Identification and expulsion centre (CIE) and Reception centres for asylum seekers (CARA) , Caltanissetta
Unlike the Palaspedini stadium, the delegation was welcomed as soon as we arrived and we experienced no problems in accessing the site of Caltanissetta as they had got the information by the prefecture of Caltanissetta. Apart of many staff members of the CARAs, was also present the head of the police of Caltanissetta as well as a representative from the city. However, journalists were not allowed to film inside the structures of the CARAs and the CIE but could film just in front of the doors of one CARA.
At the time of the visit, the delegation was told there were 475 people in the CARA and 53 people in the CIE, all men in both. The CIE has the maximum capacity of 90 people:
- In the CARA, main nationalities were from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mali, Gambia and Nigeria (no Eritreans or Syrians were there). The staff explained that many people come by themselves at the gate of the centre and that at that time, there were 100 Pakistani waiting in tents outside of the centre that were waiting to enter the centre. When asked how long people in the CARA had to wait before their personal file is made, the staff answered that it was maximum 1 week (before they have the so called C3 interview). Average age of residents was 25-30 years old. Residents who ask are able to have halal meat. They receive 75 euros/month as pocket money used mainly to buy cigarettes, coffee, and chocolate. This sum has to be spent inside the centre. We were told the asylum procedure lasts approximately one year and that 19% of the cases were Dubliners who appeal in Italy as some were unable to do so in the country that sent them back.
- The people in the CIE have all received an expulsion order. Within the CIE, they are able to freely move. The delegation was told that people would not stay more than 4 months in the CIE. Main nationalities in the CIE were Egyptians and Tunisians. When asked how many had been denied asylum among the people present in the CIE, the staff answered that very few and that many of them were coming directly from prison. All the delegation could not be granted access to the CIE, as the authorities only allowed Malin Björk as MEP and 2 accompanying staff, Amandine Bach and Luca Scarpiello. Inside the CIE, the delegation could feel a strong tension and then, when leaving the centre, the alarm suddenly rang which made the militaries guarding the centre put their “protection” and start an intervention. We were told not to worry, saying that this happens all the time, and that they simulated an evasion.
The visit started with the visit of the building where people get registered, including their fingerprints being taken which directly they say “activate the Dublin convention”. A first medical check-up is done at the same time. The delegation then went to the medical building where doctors are present 24 hours, they have as staff 2 psychologists and 2 doctors. Most frequent illness are headache, gastroenteritis but also depression and post-trauma stress. Then, the delegation went to one of the buildings of the CARA, the one on the left side when going down. While the staff of the centre repeated many times that the 2 separate CARA structures are just linked to the infrastructure and that we should just look at both of them as one single entity, the delegation felt that the two were significantly different. Due to lack of time, most of the delegation could only visit one of the 2 CARA centres. This one is the one where Pakistani and Afghans arriving put together while the other one seem to be mostly for Sub-Saharans. The NGO members of the delegation that went to the second CARA confirmed there was a big difference between both structures. While in the first CARA, all residents were calm and the delegation could have different exchange of views with them about their life in the centre. Despite us asking to be alone with residents, it was impossible to have exchange of views with them in the absence of any staff and whenever residents were complaining, the staff was saying this was not true. In the first CARA, residents mentioned staff was being nice with them, their complaint was mainly on the time they had to wait to have their request processed. In the second one, however, the tension was high with people shouting at the delegation when we passed by and asking when their “Commission” will be. While part of the delegation went into the CIE, the other part discussed with the residents of the second CARA but the doors were kept closed which had not been the case for the first one. Then, after a while, the staff let some enter the centre. According to them, some of the asylum seekers seemed to be minors.
See here link to GUE/NGL Blog on delegation to Sicily and Lampedusa: http://www.guengl.eu/policy/action/lampedusa
InformationsDate(s) of publication: 01/10/2014
- [EN], Global Detention Project, The detention of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean region
- Ecuador [EN] Global Detention Project, Ecuador Detention Profile
- France [FR] Le Monde, Cazeneuve revives the match left wing – right wing concerning expulsions
- Cyprus [EN] KISA, Serious violations of detainees’ rights in the detention centre of Mennogeia
- Belgium [FR] Steenrock, Make music, not immigration detention centres !