29. Dezember 2012 · Kommentare deaktiviert für Rom – Salaam Palace, Ort der afrikanischen Flüchtlinge · Kategorien: Eritrea, Italien · Tags: , ,

„New York Times“, 26 décembre 2012


by Elisabetta Povoledo

„ROM  – Das verlassene Gebäude in einem Vorort von Rom, einfach bekannt unter dem Namen Salaam Palace,war einst eine wenig genutzte Auffangstelle für Neuankommende aus Afria – auf der Flucht vor Krieg, Verfolgung und wirtschaftlicher Misere – , die das Gebäude besetzt hatten, um dort ihr eigenes Refugium aufzubauen. r own refuge.“
Weiter heisst es im Artikel: „Over the years, scattered mattresses were joined by sloppily plastered plywood walls, slapdash doors and scavenged furniture. Today an irregular warren of cubbyholes includes a small restaurant and a common room. On a recent cold afternoon, a hammer clinked as a bathroom was added to a one-room home where an oven door was left open for heat.

Today more than 800 refugees inhabit Salaam Palace, and its dilapidation and seeming permanence have become a vivid reminder of what its residents and others say is Italy’s failure to assist and integrate those who have qualified for asylum under its laws.

Salaam Palace and an expanding population in shantytowns elsewhere in Italy are the result of what refugee agencies say is an Italian paradox surrounding asylum seekers here. The country has a good record of granting asylum status, but a disgraceful follow-through, they say, characterized by an absence of resources and a neglect that adds unnecessary hardship to already tattered lives and is creating a potential tinderbox for social unrest.

“Italy is quite good when in the asylum procedure, recognizing 40 percent, even up to 50 percent of applicants in some years,” said Laura Boldrini, the spokeswoman in Italy for the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. “What is critical is what comes after.”

Italy has only about 3,150 spots in its state-funded asylum protection system, where refugees receive government assistance. Waiting lists are astronomical. “If you’re not lucky to get one of those, you’re on your own,” Ms. Boldrini said. “You have to find a way to support yourself, learn the language, get a house and a job.”

That has certainly been the experience of those in Salaam Palace. Some have been living in the abandoned university building since early 2006, when it was occupied by a group of refugees with the help of an organized squatters’ association.

Most fled a life of war and hardship in Sudan and the Horn of Africa. Nearly all have refugee status, or some form of protection, but they have been unable to find steady work in Rome. Italy’s economic crisis has made the challenge all the harder.

“We escaped one war to find another kind of war — 800 people crammed in a palazzo,” said Yakub Abdelnabi, a resident of Salaam Palace who left Sudan in 2005.

Last summer, the Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, visited Salaam Palace and was struck by the “destitute conditions” of its residents and “the near absence of an integration framework” for refugees in Italy, according to a report issued in September.

Mr. Muiznieks “witnessed the shocking conditions in which the men, women and children were living in this building, such as one shower and one toilet shared by 250 persons,” the report said.

Apart from volunteers, the residents had “no guidance” in finding work, going to school or dealing with administrative burdens. “This has effectively relegated these refugees or other beneficiaries of international protection to the margins of society, with little prospect of improvement in their situation,” the report said.

To grant access to social assistance, the local authorities often demand documents that are impossible for the refugees to obtain. Occasional government-financed projects designed to remedy the situation have had negligible impact, residents said.

Though immigrants have access to medical care, many are leery of navigating the labyrinthine national health system, which is why on a blustery December day medical students had volunteered to provide flu shots to some residents of the Salaam Palace in an improvised health clinic, amid cigarette butts and empty beer bottles.

“This is the worst time of the year, when the risk of epidemic is high,” said Dr. Donatella D’Angelo, president of a volunteer association that provides weekly health care at Salaam Palace.

In recent weeks, she and her team of volunteers have provided more than 100 flu shots to residents. “It’s a drop in the bucket,” she said. “Look at the conditions they live in and tell me if they’re not likely to transmit the flu to each other. I’m against vaccines, normally, but it’s better than getting sick in this place. This is another city, this is another world.”

A steady stream of residents sought help, anxious about various ailments: a persistent headache, a cyst on a shoulder, a black eye. They are referred to state hospitals and clinics, but the doctors can do little about the psychological frailty that overcomes many.

“Depression, in various forms, is normal here,” said Dr. Marta Mazza, a volunteer.

Because of its geography, Italy is more exposed to migration from Africa than many other European Union countries, and it has called on its E.U. partners to help bear the burden. Even so, Italy has lagged in its own response, refugee agencies say.

“It has never invested in a system that’s structural,” said Ms. Boldrini, of the office of the U.N. commissioner. “Every year is treated as if it’s any emergency.”

Under current E.U. rules, known as Dublin II — named for the city where the group’s first accord on refugees was reached — asylum seekers are evaluated and processed in the country where they first enter the European Union. Their fingerprints are taken and put into a databank.

If the refugees leave and are found in another E.U. country, they are returned to their point of entry. Many residents of the Salaam Palace wistfully recounted fleeting months of freedom — and hope — in France or Britain or Germany before being “Dublined” back to Rome.

The regulation has been criticized as undermining the rights of refugees.

The report issued by the commissioner for human rights pointed out that several asylum seekers who had left Italy for Germany had successfully challenged their transfer back to Italy because German courts had recognized “the risk of homelessness and a life below minimum subsistence.”

The commissioner urged Italy to adopt an E.U. directive granting long-term residency status to refugees after five years, which would facilitate their movement throughout the European Union.

“No one believes that we can live like this in Italy,” said Bahar Deen Abdal, a nattily dressed 28-year-old Sudanese man who has lived in Salaam Palace for four years. “This place, it’s like being in jail.”

About 900 other refugees in Rome live in equally, if not more, squalid conditions, according to a recent report, with one group occupying a shantytown along the Tiber.

As far as priorities go, assistance to the refugees ranks low on the government’s list at a time of economic crisis, when Italians are absorbed in their own struggles. But refugee agencies argue that Italy has every incentive to assist asylum seekers.

“Of course it means a financial effort, but it worth it to transform them into tax-paying citizens, we think the investment is worth it,” said Christopher Hein, director of the Italian Refugee Council.

Meanwhile, those at Salaam Palace make do. There is a shop for basic needs that sells injera, the Ethiopian and Eritrean bread, and some tomato sauce and spaghetti.

Yohannes Bereket, a smiling 35-year-old, was granted refugee status three years ago after fleeing his native Eritrea, where he had apprenticed as a shoemaker. Residents of Salaam Palace can hardly afford shoes. So today he ekes out a living mending clothes and cobbling the occasional sole.

“At least I have a place to sleep,” he said. “It’s not great, but I do what I can”.“


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