Opened on January 20, 2020, the Macomer CPR (Centro di Permanenza per i Rimpatri) is the first detention centre in Sardinia. The facility can hold up to 100 people for a maximum period of 180 days (Law Decree 113/2018). As highlighted by Francesca Mazzuzi in an article written a few days after the opening of the centre, “the opening of the CPR was presented by the regional government as an important choice to revive the (impoverished) local economy and an indispensable one to discourage the migratory flow of young Harragas from Algeria to the coasts of south-western Sardinia. This is a (migratory) route that has been active for almost fifteen years and through which around 750 people arrived in 2019. It is a well-known phenomenon and despite the alarmist tones regularly used by local media it can hardly be called an emergency.” The new detention facility was designed to confine these group of young men, as well as other illegalised migrants.
Located in Macomer, an Italian town of 9,861 inhabitants in the province of Nuoro, the building where the immigration detention centre is operating used to be a maximum-security prison which was closed in 2014 for not meeting the minimum statutory parameters envisaged for prison institutions (Bottazzo & Bleggi 2019, p. 103). The facility, where illegalised non-citizens are now held, has been remodelled in the last few years in order to “guarantee its security as well as the security of the local population”.
For the first three years the centre will be run by Ors Italia, a subsidiary of the Ors Group, a multinational company operating in Switzerland, Austria and Germany and already involved in the management of reception centres for asylum seekers. Ors Italia won the public tender promoted by the Prefecture of Nuoro thanks to their low bid offer, thus raising widespread concerns for their interest in making profit rather than safeguarding migrants’ human rights. The Ors has indeed been involved in various scandals, such as the one following a report by Amnesty International for the bad management of the Traiskirchen centre in Austria. To address these concerns a parliamentary inquiry was also presented on January 17, 2020 by the MP Erasmo Palazzotto.
Notably, opposition to this project was raised since its very beginning. In addition to local political actors, opponents included local residents concerned with their security but also activists and civil society groups engaged in safeguarding migrants’ rights. In particular, a group named ‘No CPR Macomer’ was created. They organised a demonstration on February 2020 to challenge the creation of the Macomer detention centre and, overall, to contest the Italian policies of migration control.