Montag, 23. April 2012

The Vulpitta Detention Centre (Trapani) remains an inhumane cage

For many years, we have been denouncing the serious shortcomings of the Italian system of detention, expulsion and repatriation of foreign citizens -a system where fundamental human rights should be protected. The rally of the 23rd April 2012, in front of the Vulpitta CIE (Immigration Deteneion Centre) in Trapani, provided us with a further opportunity to directly witness, for the umpteenth time, the climate of violence that reigns within these structures and of the lack of fundamental rights which every human being is entitled to, even those who are without the necessary documents to stay in a country. 
In a corner of the outside cage, traces of a recent fire which had been started as a form of protest by the detainees were still visible (the Minister of the Interior still refers to them as "guests"). It is a sinister image which brings to mind the terrible blaze which broke out on the night of 28th December 1999. Three migrants were killed instantaneously and another three later died in hospital after months of suffering. No one was ever held responsible for the blaze and despite the fact the Palermo courtroom ruled that the State offer compensation to some of the survivors, thereby recognising responsibility, individuals remained unnamed. 
Today, through the bars of the cage scores of hands are reaching out to us, wounds and bandages are clearly visible, indicative of the acts of self- harm that continue to occur. According to the shouts of the migrants that arrive to us from within, such acts occur with the same frequency as the punishing night time behaviour of the police. Despite the total ban issued by the prefecture on entering the centres, today with our voices and the voices of those enclosed within, it was possible to overcome the bars and the police.
The stories are always the same, but this time they seem even more tragic because we know that those relaying the information will later suffer the repercussions for doing so- a punishment for having communicated to the outside world their desperation and perhaps more shockingly so, the shameful conditions of their imprisonment purely for reasons of administration and the violation of the most basic of rights. But what was most damaging was the derisive behaviour of the police and the nurses. As a form of extreme protest, the detainees find no other way but to harm their own bodies or attempt suicide. "Sooner or later, there will be death here," these were the worst words to come out of the cage today, words which took us back to the tragedy of the 1999 blaze.

Out of the fifty migrants detained in Vulpitta, there appears to be a minor although it is still necessary to obtain and check his identity documents to be sure. Many of the migrants complain about the fact they are denied the right to a defence. They are detained for months then some of them are transferred to Turin, then on to Rome and Bari, then to Trapani. Sometimes hearings take place where the migrants are given no defence due to the fact that the Judge of Peace will have provided such authorisation on paper only and many defence lawyers comply. Yet despite all this, the strongest appeal we received was a request for help to put an end to the inhumane and degrading treatment which goes on behind the bars, starting with the frequent deprivation of outside recreation, which many say is worse than in prison. It is a request for help which demands our attention and causes us concern because we are aware of the repercussions those who have spoken will have to face. In addition to the legitimacy of the measures of detention, we will try to verify in all possible ways, what will happen to the immigrants who, this morning, had the courage to speak to us. And we will fight with all our strength for politicians, journalists and independent lawyers to visit the Centre which should have been shut down in 2007 as requested by the Ministerial Commission led by Staffan De Mistura, who is today, undersecretary for Monti's government. In the years following 2007, humanitarian agency reports and parliamentary visits repeated the request for the closure of the Vulpitta Centre. Yet the oldest CIE in Italy is still there, with its tragic symbolic valency, a place of death and deportation.
After the last report on the state of prisons and Immigrant Detention Centres (CIEs) presented in the Senate a few days ago, we are calling with renewed vigour not only to be able to have access to the CIEs, but also for their immediate closure. It is the entire system of CIEs that produces standards which are in direct contrast to constitutional norms and legitimate methods of detention which do not respect the dignity of the individual for example when the immigrants are transferred to the airports for deportation handcuffed with strips of plastic and with tape covering their mouths. And this is happening in Trapani, not only at the Vulpitta Centre, but also in the Milo CIE.

We strongly request politicians to go and visit the Italian CIEs as soon as possible, starting with Vulpitta in Trapani. The democratic Constitution prohibits all types of violence against others even when under police guard with limitations on their personal freedom (art.13). The politicians who still recall the rights which each person has and those of the democratic Constitution should make the Italian Government urgently modify current legislation, whose principle characteristic is deprived of humanity and solidarity and whose application leads only to the constant violation of fundamental human rights. As a recent ASGI (Association for Judicial Studies on Immigration) document states: "Today it is possible to hold people for a year and a half in administrative prisons- structures which are not subject to the guarantees imposed for penitentiary or penal prisons- merely because they are not in possession of a permit of stay. Today, in Italy, even those who have the right conditions (work, family) are still not being granted a permit of stay. It is an irrational legislation, which has nothing to do with humanity, only the carrying out of checks and deportations. It is an inhumane and degrading legislation that is therefore at odds with the Constitution and the principles of International Conventions." Furthermore, administrative procedures are added to this legislation which highlight, "a serious violation of fundamental human rights on behalf of the police, which shows that in places such as the system of administrative detention where legal or public opinion has no input, a breeding ground for abuse and the violations of rights is created."


Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo - ASGI