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Riots close Italy’s immigrant detention centers

αναδημοσίευση από libcom:

CIE detainees often try to break out, resist, harm themselves or go on hunger strike. Now they have succeeded in doing what organizations, politicians and activists have been unable to do: close CIEs.

The fight against CIEs (illegal immigrant detention centers) has taken different forms: from the LasciateCIEntrare (“Let us in”) campaign to allow journalists to visit and write about these prisons to active support from autonomist and anarchist groups. CIE detainees often try to break out, resist, harm themselves or go on hunger strike. Now they have succeeded in doing what organizations, politicians and activists have been unable to do: close CIEs.

Every immigrant found without a residence permit or who is not a recognized asylum seeker is taken to a CIE, identified and deported to his or her country of origin. The current policy on immigration links permission to stay in the country with a job so immigrants without jobs are immediately categorized as “illegal”. To lose a job and remain in Italy is regarded as a crime.

The first CIE to shut was in Bologna, closed in March for renovation which is still ongoing. In June the Serraino Vulpitta CIE, located near Trapani, closed down. The same happened in August in Modena, where attention was drawn to living conditions in the CIE after center employees went on strike for six days because of lack of pay and in protest against the way in which the detainees were forced to live.

Then the CIE in Isola Capo Rizzuto (Crotone), located in Calabria in the ball of Italy’s foot, also closed for renovation. Rioting was sparked when a Moroccan immigrant (Moustapha Anaki) died at the center where 51 immigrants were being held. Moustapha Anaki lived in Italy for seven years without papers but he became “illegal” in 2009. The so-called “guests” expressed their deep anger and emotion by destroying everything, from the video surveillance system to the furniture. The CIE became uninhabitable, so they were transferred to the CIE in Trapani and the center was closed.

There is also a CARA in this area, an identification center for “immigrants without documents requesting political refugee status”, where the legality of their refugee status is checked. The CARA currently holds 1700 people, double the legal capacity. The center was visited by Cecile Kyenge Kashetu, Minister of Integration, on August 21st. Moved by such an important official visit, national newspapers reported the news of the Crotone riot and the death of Moustapha, albeit with a delay of a week. The reason for this delay is not known but it could be because of restraints on journalists’ visits to the CIE, lack of contact between national and local newspapers or that the news was just simply ignored at first because of little apparent interest in the topic.

After the visit Minister Kyenge declared that “the government has started to reflect on the usefulness of and living conditions in the CIEs”. A technical session was organized by Giovanni Pinto, general director of immigration, where the CIE directors reported their problems and discussed the effects of the riots.

Meanwhile, on August 8th, in Gradisca d’Isonzo (near Trieste), police forced a detainee to move by firing teargas. Three days afterwards a number of detainees climbed onto the roof, perhaps trying to escape, but two fell and one was seriously injured. To restore the peace the local Prefect agreed to some of the detainees’ requests: mobile phones were returned (they had been banned for months) and the canteen was reopened (it had been closed to prevent “dangerous” meetings). On August 17th almost 200 people assembled outside to show their solidarity. On the 20th many detainees attempted to escape, with six making it. Since then, graffiti has appeared on the CIE’s walls declaring “Freedom, Libertad, Horria, Libertà”.

Riots were also reported on August 28th in the center of Pian del Lago in Caltanissetta (Sicily) where migrants have organized themselves to demand their rights, particularly the right to be questioned by the commission deciding whether they may stay in Italy or not.
About the same time, two detainees tried to escape from the CIE in Turin, and another tried to commit suicide. Since January, 20 police officers have been injured in disturbances, enough for the local police to ask for “new rules of engagement”. This is despite 80 people currently being employed to control 61 detainees (at present only 61 out of the full capacity 210 places are available).

In Lampedusa, 672 migrants have been detained, almost three times the legal capacity of 250 places. More come every day from Syria, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in Africa.

At present, five of the thirteen centers are closed for renovation and the remaining eight have been damaged. Less than half of the original 2,000 places are now available.

More related articles and information are here.