Milan discovers “business” of asylum seekers

Over €10 million spent in 2015.

A report published by an NGO specialized in help for asylum seekers, refugees and torture victims paints an alarming picture of the “welcome” provided in the centres financed by Milan prefecture.

The report, based on interviews with over 60 immigrants as well as managers and operators and on check visits to welcome centres, speaks of immigrants “inserted into a system which rather than welcoming seems to be the last attempt to push them away and isolate them.”

The report by Naga-Har, an association for the rights of foreign citizens, specifies how Milan prefecture handed over €10 million in 2015 to small hotels and volunteer centres contracted to take in asylum seekers and provide them with a series of services which however were rarely met. And the contracts do not specify minimum levels of competence for the job, either for the help structures or for the operators working there, says the association.

Examples quoted include cases of a single doctor for 600 patients. In other cases, the obligatory psychological counselling amounted to an average of five minutes per week per guest, while legal counselling – “which can mean the difference between achieving safety or returning to the country of origin” – averaged out at 9½ minutes per week, often in an unfamiliar language. In eight of the centres visited, legally required Italian lessons were not provided.

The contract for government financing stipulates one aid worker for every 25 guests, states the report. But this staffing level “strangely” drops, the more victims are being hosted, tempting unscrupulous operators to aim for higher numbers of guests, financed per head, assisted by fewer salaried staff.

The report concludes that the money handed out to help centres by the prefecture, without any adequate checks on whether the contracted services are in fact being provided, has proved a boon to unscrupulous operators who enter bids at the minimum cost level, which then becomes the norm, and is even then often disregarded.

Naga-Har itself provides help to some 700 immigrants and torture victims by 30 volunteer doctors, psychologists, cultural mediators, therapists, musicians and teachers providing legal and social assistance, Italian, photography and computer courses and musical and sporting activity.