Mittwoch, 14. Dezember 2011

Further incidents of self- harm at the Milo CIE. Escape from Vulpitta

Gabriele del Grande, from fortress europe. Ali slit his wrists, Ahmed swallowed three bottles of shampoo and Redha put a noose round his neck. The names have been changed in order to respect their anonymity. The stories, however, are all too true and they are not isolated incidents. Standard administrative reports from "the circles of hell" at the Milo Immigrant Detention Centre (CIE) in Trapani. Where, yesterday afternoon for the umpteenth time in Section B there were a series of acts of self-harm and attempted suicides. It was carried out by three Tunsisians, two of who have been resident in Italy for many years. Everything kicked off after lunch, when Ali swallowed an iron screw and a piece of glass and then began to cut his veins. It is as if self- mutilation is the only means open to him to communicate his despair and his desire for freedom. A few hours later, in the same section, another Tunisian ripped up his sheets to hang himself with. Those with him managed to stop him just in time, before he put his head into the noose and jumped. 

They belong to a small group of detainees at the Milo Centre, there are probably three or four of them altogether. Their period of detention has been extended a further 6 months, under the new law. The third member of the group having self-harmed was in the hospital wing with the contents of three bottles of shampoo in his stomach. None of the three however, has provoked any pity from the staff. And after a short time they are back in their cells without having been to hospital. It is true that the Milo CIE only opened last summer, but it seems that those working within the centre and the security forces are already used to the sight of blood. All of which says a lot about the frequency of acts of self-harm at the new Trapani maximum security CIE. The management of which, is the same Insieme cooperative, part of the Consortium 'Connecting People', which operates the other two Centres in Trapani: the Serraino Vulpitta and Chinisia (which closed last summer, when Milo opened). Further confirmation of exactly how unsustainable the situation at Milo has become comes from another two detainees, who we had the opportunity to talk to. They told us about the riots in Serraino Vulpitta which led to some detainees escaping.

The first one we speak to is a young man from Hay Zuhur, an inner-city area of Tunis, who ended up in the Rome CIE two and a half months ago, after having served a two year jail sentence for drug dealing offences. From there, he was transferred to Milo. He has an 18 month old son who lives in sheltered accommodation with his mother, who is Italian. He hasn't seen her since he was arrested. At the end of his sentence, he couldn't wait to hug the mother of his son again, but now he is unable to think about anything else, other than the further 18 months he must spend behind bars. He says every day something happens. People who cut themselves or try to hang themselves; people who protest against the food or the cold. In Trapani, as in other centres, shoes are taken away from the inmates to reduce the risk of escape and they are given slippers.

Another Tunsian, held in a different section of the CIE, not only confirms, but highlights the fact that those who try to escape or who protest in any way create more problems for themselves. The police use more violence against them, he tells us asking at the same time to remain anonymous. He has seen the beatings with his own eyes carried out on one of his cellmates, an Algerian. He was slapped around the face in front of the other detainees because he was found with a razor blade on him during a body search. This happened a couple of weeks ago in Serraino Vulpitta, the other CIE in Trapani, after some of the inmates had managed to escape. An incident, which up until today, we had heard nothing about.

It is known as the Turin technique and involves using files to saw away at the bars. The inmates worked away at them for several days and eventually, according to the stories of those recently transferred from Vulpitta to Milo, they managed to escape. Fourteen young Tunisians ran free, while four were recaptured by security forces. These four were then transferred to Milo along with 16 of the 32 inmates at Vulpitta. These 16 were Tunisians who had recently arrived by boat in Trapani and others who had been unable to be deported as the Tunisian Consulate in Palermo had not managed to identify them.

They are all young men like L, a thirty year old Tunisian who after having lived for 10 years in Florence has  found himself locked up for the past four months in CIEs. First in Bari and now in Milo, after the Tunsian Consulate was unable to identify him at Palermo airport. This means he will not be deported, or rather that he will spend the next 14 months behind bars before being released. He only hopes to not end up like a fellow Tunisian at the Milo CIE, who lives under the effects of prescription drugs. He had been deported, by mistake to Algeria. Algeria sent him back to Italy and now it is 9 months that he hasn't seen a child, a town square or the sea shore.