Afghan refugees: does this welcome represent us?

(To Lieta Zanatta)

“I adapt, I resist, for me there are no problems. But if my children ask me for food, what can I tell them? "

Speaking is one of the Afghan refugees, on behalf of a group of fifty, sent to a hotel in Turin di Sangro Marina in the province of Pescara on Friday afternoon 3 September, after passing through the first reception camp run by the Red Cross in Avezzano at arrival in Italy.

4890 Afghan refugees arrived in our country with the airlift of our Defense created from Kabul, after the capture of the capital by the Taliban in mid-August.

All of them have been distributed in the various accommodation facilities in Italy that have given availability. More than decent accommodations, in military bases, in hotels, pensions and residences, to be able to carry out the quarantine and then move on to the actual reception phase.

Many refugees brought a suitcase with them with few things, some arrived without even that, lost in the carnage that had clogged theAbbey Gate, the entrance of the Kabul airport in the ten days that have engaged the Italian contingent in the evacuation. Everyone is grateful for being saved and for how they were received in Italy.

However, there are some negative exceptions, such as that of Torino di Sangro Marina. Upon their arrival at the hotel, the refugees were given one room for every three or four people, depending on the family unit. In the evening came dinner with the catering.

The next day someone worriedly asks if the water from the kitchen tap is drinkable, because it is served for dinner in some old plastic jugs with an uninviting look. Others wonder why there is no hot water for washing. They ask each other, because there are no managers in the hotel. Only two workers, who continually reply that they know nothing and send everyone back to Monday, when an employee should show up.

In the evening, dinner arrives: rice with fish, no vegetables or fruit. The children are hungry, they ask for a juice, a fruit that is not there. Parents worry, don't know where to turn, make some phone calls and ask for help.

Today some photos give us the images of the actual state of things.

The rooms were delivered without being cleaned. Dust everywhere, broken mattresses, bathrooms with dirt encrusted on tiles and sanitary ware, clogged sinks, some toilets are missing the seat.

No blankets, no personal hygiene kits, soap or shower gel were delivered. And never mind that the air conditioning does not work, but the hot water is completely missing, more essential than ever, given that some children are cold.

In the dining room, some of the chairs are broken, the cleanliness on the floor is lacking. The kitchen is in an impressive hygienic state. Fortunately, it is not used because the meals take care of it catering, but the water you drink during meals is taken from those taps and leaves oily traces in the glasses where it is drunk.

Breakfast in the morning consists of some hot milk in a plastic jug, placed on a table. No tea or at least some coffee. The only "sugar bowl" is the same packet of sugar with crumpled edges. The glasses are made of plastic. On a tray there are some loose biscuits where everyone can fish freely. There are no hand sanitizers or gloves for Covid prophylaxis.

Someone works hard and manages to make a tea with a glass jar of preserves that he has managed to recover.

Others go out in search of a supermarket to buy something, because the children ask for food. But even just to get a bottle of water: the one they drink from the tap leaves oily traces, probably the carafe is not very clean.

Some complaints go to the mark: in the afternoon, someone shows up to deliver to each family: a toothbrush each (packs of three sealed and some loose data), a tube of toothpaste, a bottle of shampoo and one of liquid soap. The workers clean the kitchen a little, sweep the refectory floor with the broom.

In the evening, dinner is delivered. A plate of rice, a black-boned chicken leg, a spoonful of pea and carrot gravy. Nothing else. And the children ask for a fruit juice or at least an apple to eat.

Now, in difficult moments, the spirit of adaptation can be required of adults, not of minors. Here there are many children, some not even a year old, who have been living in a continuous emergency situation for a month, since they had to hide with their parents and flee in dramatic conditions from their homeland.

The conditions for welcoming them require decent minimum standards here they are well below any threshold of human decency, even in countries we define as third world.

The Afghans we are hosting are professionals: engineers, teachers, people who have traveled and who know what European standards are. And also those of their house, which they are much higher than the case in question"We want to return to the Red Cross tents" - they say exhausted. "At least there we had water to drink, the meals were good and we could wash ourselves".

It is Sunday, and despite a few rounds of phone calls, no one can be found to understand who manages this structure, if there is a contact person to ask for information.

It is hoped that the invoices that the State will then pay to these proposed bodies or associations will be adequate to what is actually supplied and served.

(Other photos and images of the structure are available to the competent authorities)