Gianluca Costantini
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Migrants in the CAS in the Province of Palermo


To the Prefect, the Questore and all Italian citizens,

We are migrants living in some of the CAS (Extraordinary Reception Centres) in the Province of Palermo. We come from many countries – Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh – but today we speak with one voice. We thank Italy for having taken us in after the long journey we had to make, but today we are writing this letter together so as to tell you about our difficult situation.

We left our countries fleeing from suffering, but in this country we have only found it yet again, even if it is another kind of suffering: there is some kind of perverse reasoning beneath all of this. We live in these CAS, frequently in totally isolated places, faced with many, too many problems. Many of us have been in these centres for more than 7 month, while we know that in truth we are not meant to remain in “extraordinary” reception centres for so long. We ask to be listened to.

The time we have to wait for our documents is seemingly endless. In this period, we do not know what awaits us, and we are perplexed about our situation. Frequently not even the date for the first appointment in the Questura, so as to give our fingerprints and request asylum, has been set. Indeed, many people have not even been told what asylum is: that you may have been persecuted for political or religious reasons, or for being gay, and that each case will be treated with the appropriate attention. The incredibly slow pace in receiving documents leaves us extremely worried and unclear about our future. We simply want to know the truth, and for someone to tell us what’s going on, instead of avoiding us and always telling us to wait till tomorrow.

What can you do, waiting in a centre for a year and three months, without documents nor information, if you don’t have work, and if when you are sick there is no appropriate care? If, when you ask for something you really need, you are simply told to get out of here, if you do not like where you are? We are asylum seekers: where are we meant to go? A reception centre should welcome and help people. What’s the point in it otherwise? In some cases we gave even been threatened that if we complain, we will not receive any documents. If you ask for more information, they ignore you or drive you out, even physically. You come here to find freedom, and instead your head is filled with stress through frankly impossible living conditions. In our countries we had many problems, but at least we knew how to confront them. Here, it’s the not knowing which is so terrible.

During this waiting period, the living conditions are degrading for a human being. In one of the CAS the water is switched on only twice a day, for one hour each time, and it is always cold. If we need water at other times of day, we have to take it from the cistern, where the water is putrid and stinks, and not good enough even for animals… and we are human beings. Another problem is food: we only ask that we are given the possibility of cooking for ourselves. In another centre, they do not give us appropriate clothes, and many of us arrived here directly from the port of Palermo, with literally nothing. The clothes we have were given to us by other brothers who were in the camp before us. But is is almost November now, and it is cold up here in the mountains, and many of us are still in flip-flops. In another centre still, when the police came to check the building, we told them how cold it is, that we sleep with all our clothes on, that there’s no heating. The response was that we don’t have heating in Africa. Who can you turn to, to flag up this kind of injustice?

From May till now, there was no Italian school in the camps; lessons have begun only in the last few days. The very few of us who speak Italian learnt it in camps for minors – but there, however, the first appointment in the Questura was never made. Whoever is brought to the CAS from the centres for minors do not understand why the assistance which was given to them before, when they were considered underage, turns in a total abandonment as soon as they turn 18. Whoever is brought here directly from the port thinks that Sicily is made up only of forests, that’s how isolated these centres are. And the only Italians that they will have seen are the camp’s workers. We are invisible. We want to do so many things, we are young and want to continue to live our lives, not waste our lives away waiting here.

Therefore today, all together, we ask:

 for our documents, and that the procedure for requesting asylum be sped up: we cannot wait 11 months for the first appointment in the Questura;

 that our human rights are respected: we do not ask much, only to be treated as human beings in the camps, to be listened to, and to be ensured the services to which we are entitled;

 for the most isolated to be transferred to camps which can guarantee the above, including better living conditions.

Migrants in the CAS in the Province of Palermo



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