- Title: Italian asylum centre bursting at seams as migrants await documents
- Date: 18th January 2017
- Summary: AUGUSTA, SICILY (FILE - AUGUST 21, 2016) (REUTERS) NAVAL PERSONNEL AND RESCUED MIGRANTS ON DECK OF ITALIAN NAVAL VESSEL 'SIRIO' YOUNG MAN CARRYING PARAPLEGIC MIGRANT YUSUF OYAREKHUA ON HIS BACK WALKING DOWN STEPS TOWARDS QUAYSIDE
- Embargoed: 1st February 2017 09:25
- Keywords: Mineo migrants asylum documents Italy
- Location: MINEO AND AUGUSTA, ITALY
- City: MINEO AND AUGUSTA, ITALY
- Country: Italy
- Topics: Asylum/Immigration/Refugees,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0025ZLY62V
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A former U.S. military residential complex in the middle of rural Sicily is one of Europe's largest migrant reception centres, a vast encampment of around 400 redbrick houses hosting over 3,000 desperate migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in the hope of a better life.
The CARA Mineo (Cara standing for Accomodation Centre for Asylum Seekers) reception centre is situated about 50km from the eastern port of Catania on the road to the smaller town of Gela on Sicily's southern coast. It should hold a maximum of 2,000 people but it often has to cope with up to 4,000.
Although the complex has checkpoints, wire fences and perimeter patrols, the centre's residents are allowed to come and go pretty much as they please.
As such, the nearby town of Mineo, home to around 5,000 people, often feels overwhelmed by the thousands of migrants on their doorstep.
On arrival, the would-be refugees are told that their stay will be six months, but delays in the procedures for requesting asylum mean that some have resided here much longer, the centre is a massive waiting room, and many complain there is nothing to do and they feel confined by the isolation and overcrowding. Crimes such as rape have taken place within its fences.
But for some of the migrants inside, life is still much better than it was back at home.
"In this camp they are taking care of me. I feel love, they assist me in everything I want to do, so I have never felt love before, they have never treated me, my family have never treated me like this ever since I was born," said Nigerian paraplegic Yusuf Oyarekhua sitting proudly on his electrical scooter.
Yusuf left Nigeria because he said his family were ashamed of his disability. He said he had been kept locked away inside his home. He arrived in Italy in August 2016 after being carried on the back of his friend through much of his journey to Libya where he caught the boat to cross the Mediterranean.
"What I wish to do for myself is that I want to work for myself. I don't want to become a liability, so I want to learn how to operate a computer," he explained, saying this is the first time he has been able to dream of the future.
Eritrean migrant Selam Ayalew gave birth to a premature baby boy, Amanuel, soon after arriving at the camp. She makes no mention of the father of her child, many women have reported being raped during their travel to Europe. Holding her baby of only a few months Ayalew says she is grateful to have received medical treatment but she wants to leave the camp and has no idea how long she will have stay.
"I had a really difficult journey here, also because I was pregnant. But thanks to Cara (Mineo) who supported me from when I arrived and helped me to have all the check-ups necessary and ensured I had everything I needed, I was able to give birth to my son," she said.
Harouna Marega from Mali has been living in the camp for two years, his first application for refugee status and legal documents was refused, but he is hoping the judges will reverse this decision when his appeal comes up and he is continuing to study while he waits.
"My dream is to become a cook," Marega said.
"At the moment I am planning to pass my school leaving certificate and then to continue studying to become a cook," he said.
In Italy, some 40 territorial commissions evaluate asylum requests and interview applicants. Their decisions can be appealed to the court system, but rejections can leave migrants in legal limbo for years.
Judges say the legal appeals are overwhelming Italy's civil justice system, already among the slowest in Europe, and pulling them away from other cases. The government has said it will streamline the legal process, but it has not yet done so.
Each rejected applicant has a right to a trial and two appeals. That can take almost eight years, according to a 2013 study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Some take even longer.
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