Home News Italy wants to invest in centers for the repatriation of migrants – Annalisa Camilli

Italy wants to invest in centers for the repatriation of migrants – Annalisa Camilli

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Italy wants to invest in centers for the repatriation of migrants – Annalisa Camilli

They all threw themselves on him together, immobilized him and tore from his mouth the wire that he had sewn to his lips in protest. The young man, a Tunisian, kept kicking while someone was filming. A video showing this scene still arouses controversy, so much so that five Milan city councilors asked to enter the Repatriation Center (CPR) in via Corelli 28 for an inspection, while on 11 December the detainees inside from the center protested by denouncing the terrible conditions of the food and the massive and indiscriminate use of sedatives and psychopharmaceuticals.

The young man who on November 2 was allegedly immobilized by police officers has meanwhile been repatriated. But he doesn’t give up: “I went on a hunger strike for two days, because I didn’t want to be sent back, then I sealed my mouth,” he tells the Fanpage site on the phone. The agents would have torn the wire without the intervention of a doctor, immobilizing him on the ground. The man says he left his wife and son in Campobasso. “I’m terrible, I have no money, I have nothing, my life is ruined.”

He had arrived in Italy in 2020, then moved to Germany to work, then returned to Italy for five months, but did not have a valid residence permit. He was stopped for a police check in Bologna, and then transferred to the center of Milan. The case was denounced by the No Cpr activist network, who have been monitoring the facility since it reopened in 2020 and who have called a demonstration for December 18.

The center in via Corelli was one of the first CPRs opened in Italy in 1999 and since then it has been the protagonist of numerous protests: the most famous was the one which lasted from 8 April to 23 May 2005, when a boy cut his wrists and he was rescued late, sparking protests from his comrades, which were repressed by the police but continued with a long hunger strike.

“We understand that the agents pick up the Tunisians at night to repatriate them. They want to avoid protests and therefore catch them in their sleep. First they take them by plane from Milan to Palermo, where they are identified by the Tunisian consul and then they are taken to Tunisia: this happens every Monday and Wednesday”, says Teresa F., an activist of Naga and of the No Cpr network.

“In these two years we have collected numerous allegations of abuses that took place inside the center: apart from the hygienic conditions and the quantity of food, we understand that often people who shouldn’t be there because they have serious health problems are locked up in the CPR. For example, we intercepted a cancer patient, people with epilepsy problems or psychiatric patients”, continues the woman who entered the center together with former senator Gregorio De Falco in May 2022 and helped write a report on that visit .

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“The structure is halfway between a prison and a psychiatric hospital,” says the activist. “But unlike prison, there are no precise rules, everything is entrusted to circulars from the ministry,” he continues. According to the report, at the time of the visit, half of the detainees were without legal defense and had not been able to appoint a lawyer. Nicola Cocco, a doctor who participated in the visit to the CPR, highlighted the presence of people who had committed acts of self-harm, recorded the massive use of psychotropic drugs and no possibility for prisoners to access specialist visits, furthermore no taking into particular burden for drug addicts and psychiatric patients.

There are currently ten CPRs active in Italy for a total of 1,100 places

The repatriation centers were established in Italy in 1998, but over time they had gradually been abandoned due to the critical conditions of respect for human rights inside and their ineffectiveness. But in 2017, with the Minniti-Orlando decree, the CPRs were again at the center of an expansion program: the then interior minister Marco Minniti had promised to open twenty: one in each Italian region with the aim of increasing the number of repatriations.

At the moment there are ten Cprs active in Italy for a total of 1,100 places, but the Meloni government’s plan is to further expand the network with an investment of 42 million euros over three years. This is foreseen by the financial maneuver launched on 21 November by the council of ministers and now being examined by parliament. The announced objective is to ensure “the most effective execution of the expulsion decrees for foreigners”.

In 2021, just over five thousand people passed through the ten active centres, but less than fifty percent were expelled, i.e. 2,519, in line with what happened in previous years. The reason is that there are no repatriation agreements with the countries of origin. Given their low efficiency, the centers have a high cost (more than 40 million euros were spent on the ten existing centers in 2021) and also continue to be places where neglect and abuse occur.

The Italian Coalition for Civil Freedom and Rights (CILD) has dedicated a report to the Italian CPRs: “In our study Black holes we have told how the enormous expense for these centers is useless, taking into account the small number of repatriations that are actually carried out. There are possible alternatives, such as the case managementthat is, the individual taking charge of single people who, in addition to being infinitely cheaper, offer more appreciable results in guaranteeing integration paths in the communities”.

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In a press release, CILD underlines that “the CPR are places for which there is no order or regulation – as is the case, for example, for prisons – and the exercise of the rights of detained persons is difficult and uncertain (for example, the right health, communication with the outside world, legal assistance). Furthermore, the private management of these centers makes them a real business which, in the name of maximizing profit, further compresses the services that should be offered to inmates, it should be remembered, without them having committed any crime”.

In recent years, moreover, several people have died inside the centers in increasingly critical circumstances. An example is the suicide of Moussa Balde, the 23-year-old boy from Guinea, who took his own life in May 2021 in the CPR of Turin, after being the victim of a beating in Imperia. Balde was locked up in the center of Turin, in solitary confinement, after being discharged from the hospital. “Following the boy’s death, the isolation rooms were closed. But this happened too late. Although illegitimate, these spaces had been present in the Turin structure since its opening in 1999”, explains Maurizio Veglio, lawyer of the Association of Legal Studies on Immigration (Asgi), who contributed to the writing of the report Black Book of the Cpr of Turin.

“The text of the budget is very vague on the items of expenditure: but what can be understood is that some money has been allocated for the opening of new detention facilities. This would mean the multiplication of health risks for the detainees and also for the operators. It would be necessary to intervene on the guarantee of minimum services: legal, health, linguistic assistance and so on. Not on the expansion of the structures. At the moment, for example, in Turin there are 140 people in the CPR, but only one doctor and one nurse for eight hours a day. Lawyers often meet people only after validation, so when the most has already been decided. After that, the decision to continue investing in this type of structure is questionable, it means financing a bankruptcy model, which continues to produce violations and suffering”, concludes Veglio, according to which some CPRs such as that of Palazzo San Gervasio, in Basilicata, or that of Macomer, in Sardinia, escape any monitoring.


Another case that caused much discussion was that of Wissem Abdellatif, the 26-year-old Tunisian boy who died at the San Camillo hospital in Rome on November 28, 2021, after being tied to his bed for five days in the corridor of the ward. He came from the Cpr of Ponte Galeria, where he had been subjected to heavy psychiatric treatments for the diagnosis of “schizoaffective distress”. An investigation into the boy’s death is still open.

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But the Cpr of Gradisca d’Isonzo, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, is the one in which the most people have died in the last two years: four. Former senator Paola Nugnes and former deputy Doriana Sarli presented a report to the prefect, questions and then a complaint to the Gorizia prosecutor on 22 September 2022, after visiting the Gradisca center on 17 June 2022. “Wednesday 31 August, a 28-year-old Pakistani man committed suicide inside the CPR, just an hour after his arrival in the centre. It was not even possible to know the boy’s name”, is written in the complaint. “Inside the centre, there are very young people who have not committed crimes and who often attempt suicide in despondency and sometimes succeed,” Nugnes explains.

“The Gradisca center is inadequate, there is little transparency in management. People are locked in cages with high gates. They look like they’re in a zoo,” Nugnes continues. “Everything takes place in these enclosed areas, they eat and sleep in the same place. Some of these people have health problems, we found a diabetic and then many psychiatric patients”, continues the former senator, who denounced the absence of a doctor inside the structure at the time of the visit. “There are no common areas, no cultural mediation, I’m not in contact with lawyers,” she concludes.

“What we have highlighted is the presence within the CPR of people with obvious previous vulnerabilities”, underlines the lawyer Martina Stefanile, who participated in the visit. “The case that struck us the most was that of a 19-year-old boy, Bergadi Abdessadek, who arrived in Italy as a minor, who was locked up in the CPR of Gradisca in May 2022, after having undergone an integration process in a reception center from which he had left when he came of age. His case had been reported to us for an attempted suicide ”, says Stefanile. “We found him in an isolation cell, malnourished. We had a picture of him, but he was unrecognizable. He had lost several kilos ”, continues the lawyer. The boy had attempted suicide, trying to hang himself with sheets, but was rescued by his cellmates. Then he was subjected to heavy treatments with psychotropic drugs and placed in solitary confinement. “A measure that is not foreseen in the CPR, but unfortunately is still practiced with disastrous consequences for people”, concludes the lawyer.

In his 2006 book Italian lagers, Marco Rovelli described the Gradisca detention center as “a structure made of cages and metal aimed at the total control of the prisoner, destined to be like an automaton, radically deprived of his own personality”. Sixteen years later, little or nothing has changed.

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