Geographical location

45.471062, 9.25055

About the location

Location type
Detention centre
Italy Italy

The Milan detention centre opened its doors on the 11th of January 1999, in the aftermath of the adoption of the Law N. 40/1998, as one of the first operative CPTAs (Temporary Stay and Assistance Centres) in Italy. The facility was situated in via Corelli n. 28, in the eastern suburbs of the city and was specifically designed for the purpose of detaining irregular migrants. After a first phase in which containers of the Red Cross were used to accommodate detained migrants, the facility was then expanded and renovated to reopen in November 2000. The centre was managed by the Italian Military Red Cross until 2013 and had a capacity of 140 people.

Like other detention centres in Italy, the facility of via Corelli resembled a prison, because of its small cells, bars at the windows, security gates and high surrounding walls. It was divided in two main buildings. One was used for administrative functions and it included a medical office, with two additional reception rooms that were used for isolation or quarantine for health purposes. The other building was composed of five units for detaining foreign citizens: each area had a small courtyard, a living room and shared lavatories. No dedicated spaces for religious practices or cultural activities were included in the buildings. Moreover, people with very different backgrounds and judicial situations are detained alongside.

Initially some units were reserved to women and transgender migrants, who have been among the groups repeatedly subjected to extensive abuses and violence within the centre. Over the years, there have been many reports of police violence against transgender detainees, such as the one occurred in July 2008, or the sexual violence inflicted by a police agent on a trans Brazilian national in 2009. The same year, another transgender detainee killed herself after her detention. In addition to the violent incidents, NGOs have condemned the medical conditions of migrants affected by HIV, particularly in cases when they should not have been detained in the first place and did not have access to specialized treatments and care inside the centre.

However abuses, inefficiencies and serious human rights violations occurring in the centre over the years were not limited to women and transgender migrants. Journalists and civil society organizations have highlighted several problematic issues and violations of detainees’ rights since the opening of the facility. As reported in the document “Dossier Corelli” (Centro delle Culture, 1999), hygienic and health conditions were degrading, and cases of scabies were detected among detainees. Migrants did not have access to information regarding their legal status and legal guarantees, resulting in a blatant denial of their right to defence. The lack of information was also exacerbated by the absence of cultural mediators and interpreters and it therefore proved impossible for migrants to have their voices heard and their complaints addressed. Already in 1999, NGOs registered cases of attempted suicides because of inhuman conditions, sexual harassment against migrant women and police violence occurring during the enforcement of repatriation. As noted by Medici senza frontiere, the management of health conditions was problematic, particularly with regard to mental health care and psychiatric treatments. Lack of coordination with the local sanitary board was deemed as particularly concerning by MEDU, as migrants could not undergo specialist medical examinations or treatments.

These critical issues (poor hygienic conditions, inadequate healthcare, lack of activities, absence of interpreters, restricted access to legal aid) repeatedly took place during the following years, making clear the systematic oppressive character of the facility. Reportedly, these problems affected the wellbeing of detainees, leading them to suicide attempts, self-injury, riots and hunger strikes. For instance, during 2004 and 2005, several protests took place within the Via Corelli CPT, and other detention centres around the country. Following these riots, migrants were repeatedly arrested and prosecuted through a fast-track process, characterised by the predominance of a speed procedure over procedural guarantees.

As reported in the blogpost written by the activist network MAI PIU LAGER - NO AI CPR (NO MORE CONCENTRATION CAMPS- NO CPR), on the 12th of February 2004, the ‘Observatory of the Via Corelli CPT’ was established, unifying political parties, non-profit associations, Trade Unions and various grassroots groups with the aim of reporting and exposing human rights violations occurring behind closed doors. Activists criticised the restrictive immigration legislation put in place in Italy in 2002 (i.e., Law n. 189/2002, also known as Bossi-Fini law) which, among other things, extended maximum time in detention from 30 to 60 days. They also supported the fights and protests of detainees who condemned the inhuman conditions and practices of the center.

In 2011, the maximum duration of detention was raised from 6 to 18 months (Law Decree n. 89/2011, converted into Law No. 129/2011). In this context, protests against increasingly intolerable detention conditions, including poor healthcare, lack of cultural mediators, legal information and legal aid, as well as obstacles in the right to seek asylum continued unabated.

In November 2013, as a result of a number of riots, the facility in Milan was closed and the migrants were transferred to other Italian CIEs. One year later, in October 2014, the center was converted into a reception center for asylum seekers (CAS) and has been managed as an open center until 2018.  Yet, starting from the new Decree-Law n. 13/2017 (also known as the “Minniti-Orlando Decree”, which envisaged for the establishment of one detention center for every region) the Via Corelli centre was scheduled for re-opening and during the following years the Ministry of Interior has pushed for its re-conversion into a closed detention center.

In September 2018, the first public meeting of the new movement MAI PIU LAGER - NO AI CPR (NO MORE CONCENTRATION CAMPS- NO CPR) network took place at the Naga Association based in Milan. The main goal of this new network, made of political parties, associations and collectives, has since then been to oppose the new repressive immigration law reforms through the organization of demonstrations, events and public assemblies to provide critical information on detention and shift public opinion on this topic (and immigration more generally).

The group’s mobilization continued all along 2019 and 2020, as the centre silently reopened on 28th of September 2020: while no official statement was made by national or local political authorities, the re-conversion of the reception centre into a CPR appears to be in line with the political strategy (aiming at increasing the possibility to detain irregular migrants in order to speed their removal) carried on by the new Ministry of Interior, and that emerged clearly in the new amendment brought about by D.L. 130/2020, converted into L. 173/2020.

Not surprisingly, the migrants locked up in the centre since October were mainly Tunisian citizens, who were rescued in SAR operations or apprehended at the border after their dismemberment and, following a period of deprivation of liberty enforced on “quarantine boats”, were transferred to CPRs on Italian territory in order to speedily execute their return. Some associations have denounced that during their detention Tunisian migrants faced several obstacles in lodging their asylum applications.

Besides, the new opening did not come with a change in the nature nor the structure of the facility: precisely as it was before its closure in 2013, the centre still resembles a prison. It is surrounded by bars and fences, all windows are blocked, and every unit and main door is guarded by armed forces and constantly monitored. Its oppressive features are stressed by the fact that the social workers of the managing cooperatives are always escorted by police officers when they move within the areas where migrants live. If they are not escorted, the only way for migrants to talk to staff members and expose their needs is to approach them through the windows overlooking the common yard.

Following the trend towards the “humanitarian government of detention”, the facility’s management has been assigned to two social cooperatives, “Versoprobo Scs” and “Luna Scs”, which have both experience in the field of reception of asylum seekers. Quite interestingly, a board member of “Luna Scs”, Roswitha Flaibani, still holds the position of Guarantor for the rights of persons deprived of their liberty in Vercelli, which appear quite in contrast with the several shortcomings that have already appeared in the management of Milan CPR.

The services provided by the Cooperatives are deemed as insufficient, particularly with regard to the poor sanitary and hygienic conditions, the lack of cultural mediators, and the inadequacies in healthcare assistance. Remarkably, the quality of the service has even worsened starting from mid-October 2020, given the reduction of the number of detainees (some units are unavailable due to the damage caused during protests which occurred few weeks after the opening).

According to the information collected by NO CPR, only 1 staff member is present in the facility on average, whereas according to the tender specification the minimum number is 3 or more. Moreover, despite the facility having operated for six months, there is no permanent service of cultural mediation, no legal operator providing instant information upon entry, and the medical board does not guarantee a 24/7 presence. Even in the case of an assistance provided following the tender specification, the limited number of staff members envisaged, and the lack of continuous cultural, legal and medical services would make it impossible to grant an effective protection of detainees’ rights and their human treatment. 

The emergency measures justified by the pandemic have exacerbated the situation, particularly with regard to the right to defence and the possibility to communicate with family members, lawyers and third parties. On the one hand, as noted by the National Guarantor for the right of detainees, it is almost impossible for migrants to communicate with the outside world, given the prohibition to keep the mobile phones inside the centre and the lack of communal phones – which, according to CIE’s Regulation, should be present in a number of 1/15 migrants.

The only chance for them to make calls is through the cell phones of staff members, albeit it depends on the availability of the operators. With regard to these practices several associations have denounced that the requisition of mobile phones, which implies the impossibility for persons from the outside world to contact people inside and violates the right to information, to family and private life and correspondence and to defence, as enshrined in the Italian Constitution and in the European Convention on Human Rights.

On the other hand, in November 2020, after detainees were found positive to Covid-19, in the centre a medical isolation was imposed, preventing even the lawyers from entering the facility. This situation lasted from the 16th to the 30th November 2020, and during this period about forty detainees were completely isolated. The most dramatic case was that of a Tunisian citizen who, at the end of November 2020, should have met his lawyer to sign his appointment; when the interview did not take place, the man attempted suicide twice and was subsequently hospitalized at Niguarda Hospital, without having yet appointed his lawyer. As highlighted by ASGI and Naga, the medical isolation has been used as a means of suspending any form of communication between detainees and their lawyer, who could not have access to the centre, resulting in a blatant and unlawful violation of the right to defence.

The condition of total isolation that was imposed during the quarantine in November seriously affected the rights of eight minors, who were unlawful detained in the centre for several weeks, before the age assessment was finally conducted. Remarkably, the detention of minors proved not to be an isolated fact, as during December 2020 and  January 2021 NOCPR activists again reported that other Tunisian minors were restricted in via Corelli.

The detention of minors, the lack of legal safeguards, the obstacles of communication, the psychological and physical abuses suffered by detainees and the degrading conditions of the center were constantly reported, since the reopening of the CPR, by the activist of NOCPR and ultimately led  finally led different actors of the civil society to sign a petition to definitively close the facility. Concurrently, the violations and inadequate conditions of the place, combined with the fact that previous to CPR detention most of the migrants were already subjected to detention on “quarantine boats” and hotspots for several days, gave rise to numerous protests that broke out since October, aiming at the demolition and at the closure of the centre.