While all eyes are fixed on the ‘border spectacle’ of the Mediterranean Sea and its perilous crossing, it is easy to overlook the people within the administrative detention system, about seventeen thousand only in the period between 2015 and 2018. Difficulty in accessing these sites compounds matters. This map and the stories that accompany it attempt to contextualise and communicate the presence and function of these sites of confinement as well as the lived experiences of those within them.

Though the presence of foreign residents has long been a feature of Italian society (Colombo and Sciortino 2010), until the 1960s Italy was predominantly a country of emigration. Between 1860 and 1970 approximately twenty-six million people emigrated, primarily to the US and to other, wealthier Northern European states, but also to Australia, Canada and Latin America. Over the same period more than twenty million Italians moved internally, from Southern Italy to Northern Italy, in search of work (Sciurba 2009). Most of those who moved to Italy, during this period were refugees, residents of former Italian colonies, and students (Colucci 2018). It was only in the late 1960s and early 1970s that immigration started to become a visible phenomenon, and the need for legal structures to manage it emerged.

Initially addressed as a matter of public security, whose control was in the hands of police, and, later on, as an issue related to the labour market (Law 943/1986, which implemented ILO Convention 143/197 on migrant workers), the first attempt at regulating migration in Italy dates only to the 1990s, when the so-called Martelli Law (Law 39/1990) was enacted. This law was characterized by ‘a strong securitarian attitude towards immigration’ (Campesi 2014), and introduced a set of provisions to control and regulate the entry and/or residence of non-nationals on the Italian territory as well as provisions for the recognition of asylum seekers. It established procedures for the removal of so-called ‘irregular migrants’ (Article 7), who had failed to comply with a previous order to leave. In this regard, it simplified the mechanism by assigning the task of signing expulsion orders to the Prefects, and removing the responsibility from the Ministry of the Interior. If more time was needed for the police to identify a person and obtain their travel documents, it was also possible for the Questore (a high-ranking police official) to request (from a Court) special public security surveillance, which could include mandatory residence at a determined place. In this residency restriction, which applied only in exceptional cases, we see the roots of the contemporary immigration detention estate, that was officially established in 1998.

In March 1991, over twenty thousand Albanians landed on Italian shores to seek refuge from the economic and political turbulence affecting Albania in its post-communist transformation. This exodus had actually started the year before, in July 1990, when around 5,000 people occupied different European embassies (the so-called ‘crisis of the embassies’), and 4,500 of them were brought to Italy and recognised as political refugees. Less than a year later, the scenario was very different. The country, and in particular the city of Brindisi – where the ships coming from Dürres and Valona arrived full of people who had fled their home (about twenty-five thousand men, women and children) – were unprepared and unwelcoming. As Giovanna Campani (1992) describes:

‘They (Albanians) waited in the rain and wind in the bay of Brindisi to be allowed to stay, but the Italian government was cynically indifferent to them’.

The great solidarity of the people of Brindisi and their mayor, Giuseppe Marchionna, who incited his fellow citizens: ‘They are only hungry and cold, help them’, stood in marked contrast to the hostile reception by the Italian government.

A few months later, in August 1991, more than twenty thousand Albanians landed in the port of Bari, squeezed in the cargo ship Vlora. This event, which is remembered as the largest landing of migrants in Italy on a single ship, was portrayed by the media as an ‘invasion’. This time, the reception by Italian authorities was even harsher. Migrants were kept in Bari’s port, with little to no material help, and then transferred directly to the old stadium Della Vittoria, where they were confined. Those who did not manage to escape, were deported back to Albania in the next days.

This event anticipated four years later, in 1995, the creation of three centres along the maritime border of the Apulian coast, in Brindisi, Lecce and Otranto. These centres were established by Decree 451/1995, entitled ‘Urgent measures for the deployment of the Armed Forces in maritime border control activities in the Apulia Region’, later enacted into the so-called Apulia Law, which institutionalised the practice of administrative detention to address ‘landfall emergencies’ (Campesi 2011). This law provided for the possibility, in ‘emergency situations’, to open similar centres in other parts of the country. These centres were conceived as means to deal with ‘emergency situations associated with maritime border control’ and, more specifically, to provide ‘first aid’ to non-nationals lacking basic goods and awaiting identification and/or expulsion. The intertwining of humanitarian protection and police surveillance was thus the basis of this measure and of the establishment of these sites of confinement. As Campesi notes, ‘the practice of the following years would have confirmed all the ambiguities of this form of “humanitarian detention” created by the “Apulia Law”’.

The same year as the Apulian ‘emergency’, the Dini Decree was also issued. Continuing practices established by the Martelli Law, this provision allowed migrants subject to removal to be held, for up to 30 days, in ad-hoc facilities identified by the Minister of the Interior in agreement with the Minister of the Treasury and, eventually, with other Ministers concerned. According to this Decree, which found a de facto expression in the 1998 Immigration Act, administrative detention was essentially a pre-emptive measure aimed at ensuring the effective enforcement of deportations.

In 1998, Law 40, the so-called ‘Immigration Act’, finally came into force to provide a unified framework for the regulation of migration in Italy. Recovering and systematising the provisions enacted in the previous years, the Immigration Act also normalised the mechanism of administrative detention (Esposito, Ornelas and Arcidiacono 2015). Interestingly, however, the term ‘detention’ was never mentioned in the body of the law. Rather, the law used the euphemism trattenimento [withholding] to refer to the confinement of people for migration-related reasons. Accordingly, the centres established for this purpose – i.e., for detaining non-nationals when their removal was not immediately possible – were defined as ‘Temporary Stay and Assistance Centres’ (CPTAs), with a special emphasis put on the ‘A’ of ‘Assistance’. Despite this humanitarian facade, in these sites, non-nationals could be deprived of their freedom for up to thirty days (twenty days, extendable for a further ten days).

Three different actors were involved in the government of these facilities that, over the time, have been named differently (i.e., Temporary Stay and Assistance Centres, Centres for Identification and Expulsion, Holding Centres for Removal): the Prefecture (local branch of the Ministry of Interior), the immigration office of the local Police Headquarters, and the external organisations entrusted with the management of the centres. The local Prefecture was responsible for the activation and management of the centre, for disciplining access and activities inside them, and for appointing external managing bodies and monitoring their work (as established by Decree 394/1999 of the President of the Republic). The immigration office of the local Police Headquarters was in charge of dealing with consular authorities, handling detainees’ immigration cases, implementing deportation decisions, and, finally, ensuring the centre internal security. Managing bodies were public or private entities, usually with a humanitarian background, to which the centre’s management and service provision was outsourced. Noteworthy, between 1998 and 2000 the management of almost all the CPTAs present in Italy was outsourced by the various Prefects – through direct assignment following private negotiations – to the Italian Red Cross. Yet, as reported by the Senate’s Human Rights Commission in its 2014 Report:

‘the absence of parameters set at national level and of accurate indications on detention operating procedures, the organisation of the centres and the management of safety within the facilities, caused anomalies, inefficiencies and profound disparities between the various realities present on the Italian territory, leaving room for a certain degree of discretion on the part of Prefectures and Police Headquarters.’ (p. 31)

To overcome this problem, and after the tragic death of six men in Trapani’s CPTA Serraino Vulpitta, in 2000 the Ministry of the Interior issued a General Directive on Temporary Stay and Assistance Centres in which general instructions were provided for the establishment, activation and management of detention facilities. More specifically, this Directive outlined the principles for the treatment of detainees, in order to ‘fully protect their rights’ and guarantee their ‘most dignified reception’. In this sense, it established general criteria regarding the safeguarding of safety levels and structural aspects, defining at the same time an internal regulation for managing bodies and what was called the ‘Charter of Rights’ for people detained in Italian Temporary Stay Centres.

Two years later, in 2002, the Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration, branch of the Ministry of Interior, issued national management guidelines, drawing up a scheme of agreement between Prefectures and managing bodies, which outlined the services to be provided by these latter, including healthcare services, as well as the minimum number of staff members (proportionate to the number of people detained). These guidelines made also provision for the reliance on the tendering process for the selection of the managing body, based on a two-yearly contract framework. This process took into account the competence, professionalism and mission of the competing organisations as well as their bid cost-effectiveness, for the first time evaluated on a ‘per day/per person’ price basis (for an explanation see also MSF Report 2004, pages 11-13). Finally, in 2008, the same Department issued ‘tender specifications for the management of reception centres for immigrants’, which included detention centres. According to this document, the agreements between the Prefecture and the managing bodies by means of public tenders became of three-years duration, non-renewable. Furthermore, the bid price ended up being the only criterion for awarding these tenders. It is noteworthy that, despite all these provisions, the Prefectures continued to be the entities in charge of selecting managing bodies, as well as the sole entity responsible for monitoring the centres.

Over the years the detention system underwent several other transformations, especially in relation to the length of detention. In 2002, the Bossi-Fini Law (Law 189/2002), for example, increased the maximum term for detention from 30 to 60 days. Detention, which with this law became an ordinary tool of migration control, was extended also to asylum seekers, particularly – but not only – those applying for asylum while being affected by an expulsion order. In 2009, the so-called Security Package (Law 94/2009), which further strengthened the migration-security nexus, introduced the crime of irregular entry and stay (finally repealed in April 2014, after years of grassroots mobilisations, and transformed into an administrative offence) and raised the detention period to 180 days. This period was further extended to 18 months in 2011, when another Security Package was issued in order to complete the implementation of Directive 2004/38/ EC and transpose the Directive 2008/115/EC (Law 129/2011).

Thanks also to the struggles undertaken by detainees and activists, however, in October 2014 administrative detention was reduced to 90 days, or 30 days in the case of migrants who served a prison sentence for three months or more (Law 161/2014). As some scholars have argued, this law introduced a radical change from the previous Italian immigration policy and, in some ways, represented a retreat from the long lasting criminalisation of migrants. Yet, this enthusiasm did not last long. Indeed, in 2015 the Legislative Decree 142 already marked a regression point in this field, establishing that for some categories of asylum seekers who could be detained, such as those regarded as a threat to public order and security or at risk of absconding, as well as for migrants who sought asylum in detention the time limit could be extended up to 12 months in order to allow the examination of their claims. The rationale behind this measure was to prevent the instrumental use of asylum as a means to delay or avoid deportation. In 2017, Law Decree 13 reinforced this provision, and also extended it to asylum seekers affected by pushback orders. A further 15-days extension was also introduced for those who had been in prison for 90 days or more and, moreover, detention was applied to non-nationals who repeatedly refused to undergo photo-dactyloscopic examinations (fingerprints).

Finally, in 2018, the Law Decree on Immigration and Security (also known as ‘Decreto Salvini’), later converted into Law 132/2018, turned administrative detention into ‘a key instrument in the current government of migration, with worrisome repercussions on the general system of protection of migrants' rights’, as declared by the National Ombudsman. This reform, which has been criticised for violating the principles of the Italian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, eliminates humanitarian protection as a general category by introducing a typification of cases in which a temporary residence permit can be issued for humanitarian reasons (an amendment that will cause the expansion of the illegalised, and thus detainable, population), widens the range of hypotheses and places for administrative detention, and extends the time limit for this form of confinement. In particular, it introduces the possibility to detain asylum seekers for identification purposes, i.e. to ascertain their identity and citizenship. This detention, which should take place in ‘special spaces’ within hotspots and governmental first reception centres, can last up to 30 days. If more time is needed to finalise their identification, asylum seekers can then be taken to a CPR, where they can be confined for a maximum of 180 days (thus reaching a total of 210 days of deprivation of liberty). As for migrants not requesting asylum, detention was once again prolonged for up to six months, although, over the years, it has been shown that the removals carried out each year concern about 50% of the detained population and that this percentage is not influenced by the duration of people’s detention. Law 132/2018 also envisages that when a reiterated asylum claim is presented by a person who is subject to an expulsion order which is in the process of being enforced – that is the case of non-citizens detained in CPRs – this claim should be considered as inadmissible ex lege. The rationale behind this provision is that these claims are instrumental in their scope and primarily aimed at delaying the person’s removal from Italy, however its effects are worrisome. For instance, the Social Cooperative BeFree, that works inside the Ponte Galeria detention centre in Rome, emphasised that women who are victims of trafficking at the time of the first asylum claim - which usually take place when they arrive in Italy - are not in the condition of reveiling their story of violence to the authorities interviewing them, as they are threatened by their traffickers and instructured to report ‘manufactured stories’ that are usually considered not reliable by authorities that, therefore, reject their asylum claims. Preventing these women the possibility to present a second claim, and have a second interview, when they are ready to tell their story represents therefore a violation of their rights. Above all, this prevention exposes them to life risk in case of forced deportation to their country of origin. Finally, it is noteworthy that this reform has expanded the range of places usable for administrative detention purposes, by introducing the ambiguous category of ‘suitable places’ or ‘suitable facilities’ where non-nationals affected by a removal order can be temporarily confined (up to six days). It is noteworthy that no official list is available at the present of these so-defined ‘suitable sites’, furthermore this provision violates the obligations deriving from article 13 of the Italian Constitution and article 5 of the ECHR.

The number of detention centres on the Italian territory has varied over time too. Indeed, it is often difficult for human rights advocates and activists to determine the exact size of the detention estate due to the secretative and ambigous nature of some facilities, at times officially described as centres for first aid and transit but actually operating as detention centres. Despite the overall opacity of the detention system, an upward trend was observed in the early years of its operation. Indeed, while at the time of their opening, back in 1998, there were seven operating centres, mainly located in Southern Italy where the ‘landfall emergency’ was concentrated, in 1999 the number of facilities rose to eleven, and in 2007 to fourteen (with a capacity of 1,940 places). Then, gradually, and mainly due to detainees’ riots and protests that often caused fires and damages to the facilities, the number of detention centres began to decline. By early 2017, only four detention centres were operating in Italy, in Turin, Rome, Brindisi and Caltanissetta (with a total effective capacity of 359). Over this period, the number of people detained declined from 10,913 in 2009, to 4,986 in 2014, to 4,087 in 2017 (769 women and 3,318 men). By critically analysing this phenomenon, some scholars argued that detention had actually turned into a control tool to manage the “dangerous” populations in urban areas, rather than being used for removing irregular immigration tout court.

Yet, the prospect of ending the immigration detention system, soon turned out to be an illusion. In 2017, administrative detention returned to the political agenda. With Law Decree 13/2017 (later converted with amendments into Law 46), also known as the Minniti-Orlando Decree, the Italian government mandated the expansion of the immigration detention estate in order to increase deportations. To this end, it was established that new detention facilities, now called Holding Centres for Removal (Centri di Permanenza per i Rimpatri-CPR), had to be opened in every Italian region, in order to reach a total capacity of 1,600 places.

Just over a year after the entry into force of the Minniti-Orlando Decree, the National Ombudsman, in his 2018 Report to the Parliament, critically observed:

‘Poor material and hygienic conditions of the facilities, lack of activity, lack of openness of the centres to civil society actors, lack of transparency starting from the lack of a system for recording critical events and the way they are managed, lack of consideration for the different juridical statuses of the detained persons and their different needs and individual vulnerabilities, difficulties in accessing information, absence of a complaint procedure to assert violations of rights or represent claims, are just some of the critical issues encountered which persist even in the current appearance feature of the Centres.’

In sketching the history of immigration detention in Italy, we should always remember that this story is neither linear nor written solely from the top down. In fact, while in 1998 the left-wing government was promoting the establishment of a national immigration detention system, pushed by Europe and the entry into force of the Schengen Agreement and its implementing Convention (in 1997), numerous grassroots mobilisations, protests, and criticisms arose throughout the country. On their side, lawyers, legal experts, and progressive magistrates contested the constitutional legitimacy of immigration detention as a deprivation of liberty imposed by a Prefect on people who did not commit any crimes, and thus in contrast with Article 13 of the Italian Constitution that establishes that restrictions on personal freedom are always set by a judge (except in extraordinary circumstances of necessity and urgency). The fact that judicial control over detention was carried out only after the adoption of the measure ordered by the Questore (within 96 hours) and, moreover, it was realised by a Justice of the Peace, i.e., an honorary judge with a precarious career status, was a further front of contestation. Immigration detention was (and still is) in fact the only case in Italy in which Justices of the Peace decide on a measure that affects personal liberty and, as international experts have highlighted, due to their precarious office and unsatisfactory remuneration system, based on piecemeal work rather than a consistent salary, these judges lack fundamental guarantees of institutional or structural independence as presupposed by international standards.

On the other hand, militant journalists, human rights organisations, anti-racist collectives and solidarity movements have engaged in actions, complaints and public mobilisations against the detention system. For example, as recalled by Sergio Bontempelli, in 1999 a coordination of associations was set up in Milan to monitor Via Corelli’s detention centre and they produced one of the first independent investigations on a detention site. This coordination, and many other actors over the years, have denounced the violations of human rights taking place inside these institutions, including the right to health, information, justice, protection from violence, while also highlighting the non-reformability of the detention system as such. For instance, in their 2004 Report on detention centres in Italy, which actually provided the first ‘photograph from the inside’ of these sites, Doctors without Borders Italy argued:

‘Since its implementation, the CPTA system has shown itself to be impervious to institutions, civil society and the media. This reluctance and closure to the surrounding context has meant that the individual CPTAs, and the system in general, were increasingly “islands” decontextualised from the territory. This mode of management has determined the absence of a third control authority on an apparatus that, as shown in the Report, presents serious gaps and violations of detainees' rights, violations not only due to the different managements but also to the system thought as a whole.’

Realised in an improvised way, often using crumbling or degraded state properties to save time and money, and opened before a regulatory framework was put in place for their operation, these centres immediately became also the scenes of protests, hunger strikes, and riots undertaken by detainees who protested against the unfairness of a deprivation of liberty based on administrative grounds as well as the poor living conditions experienced inside these facilities. In these sites, indeed, as research demonstrated, detainees are called by numbers, ‘stripping them of their individuality, and causing them to become part of a community of abject others’. So, as Sunjay recounts in a diary he wrote during his confinement in Rome’s Ponte Galeria detention centre: ‘...already, after a few days here, I feel like a prisoner of this modern concentration camp, in all senses ... I’m number eighty-seven zero three, here we’re all numbers.’ Episodes of police violence, including sexual abuse (here), frequently occurred. Faced with this level of institutional violence, self-harm, quite common among the detained population, was frequently used as an act of resistance. Often men ‘sewed their own lips shut with a needle and thread as a sign of protest to show that they were born on the wrong side of the planet’, Lassaad explained. Sadly these events often had a tragic outcome.

As Stefano Galieni pungently commented:

‘There is a macabre estimate that disappeared from the official history, that of those who lost their life for being detained in these sites in which even the guarantees proper of penitentiary regulations did and do not apply. Including escape attempts, never clear up sickness, and suicides we speak, by default, of about thirty deaths. Not to mention the innumerable acts of self-harm, the psychophysical balance broken by months of deprivation of liberty, the repression always followed revolts and riots for the quality of food, for having interviews with relatives and lawyers, for structural difficulties arising from places designed exclusively as temporary zoos for people.’

In this regard, a date that will remain etched in the memory of this initial phase of Italy’s detention system is that of December 28, 1999, when, after a failed attempt to escape from the CPTA of Trapani, Serraino Vulpitta, six men found a horrible death. It was the night between 28 and 29 December 1999 a group of men tried to escape from a hole in the wall by using some sheets they had tied together. However, as they were climbing down, the last man fell and fractured his foot. The police immediately surrounded the fugitives and brought them back to the centre where they were closed in their cells. Amin, one of the survivors of that tragic night, recalled:

‘We were all closed again in the cells and ours was bolted from the outside with a large iron bar. The most troubled of the group decided to set fire to a mattress to force the guards to open. I felt it would go wrong. We tried to convince him not to do it, but he acted on his own. (…) In the room there was a certain current of air and in a few minutes all the mattresses, made of synthetic material, caught fire and then also the people. There were twelve of us in my cell. There was no way out. The flames wrapped us completely, one by one.’

The police did not immediately realise that a fire was taking place inside the cell, even though the men were screaming and asking for help. When they eventually tried to intervene, they could not do anything because they did not have the keys with them. Three young Tunisian men burned alive, and three others died in Palermo’s hospital some weeks/months after due to their burns. Sadly, the solidarity offered by anti-racist activists, who donated their blood to keep migrants alive, did not serve the purpose (Vassallo Paleologo 2019). Jamel Brahami Ben Taahr, Rabah Arfaoui Ben Hedi, Nasreddin Arfaoui Ben Hedi, Lotfi Ben Mohamed Salah, Ramzi Ben Salem Mouldi, Nasim El Herzally Ben Moustafa became the first victims of the Italian detention system.

In January 2000, a complaint was presented to the magistrates. Then Prefect of Trapani, Leonardo Cerenzìa, was accused of neglect of duty, involuntary fire and accessory to multiple manslaughter. Yet, he was acquitted, as confirmed in April 2005 by the Court of Appeal of Palermo. The Serraino Vulpitta detention centre was not up to standard and there were neither fire escapes nor fire extinguishers, but no one was held responsible for the tragedy. Finally, in June 2008, the Civil Court of Palermo recognised the state's responsibility for the moral and property damages suffered by the two survivors of the event of nearly nine years before (Vassallo Paleologo 2019).

As a response to this tragic event, and after the shocking inquiry realised by the journalist Fabrizio Gatti who entered Milan’s Via Corelli detention centre, pretending to be an undocumented Romanian migrant named Roman Ladu, in January 29, 2000, some 20,000 people demonstrated in the streets of Milan to protest against the ‘concentration camps for clandestine immigrants’. To open the demonstration there was a banner with the names of the victims of the Serraino Vulpitta, and the name of Mohamed Ben Said, a 39-year-old Tunisian man who had died in Rome’s Ponte Galeria detention centre on Christmas night of 1999. ‘Killed – was written on the banner - by the concentration camps of the 2000s’’. Once they arrived in front of Milan’s detention centre, activists managed to get a delegation to access the facility and talk to the migrants held inside. Violent clashes followed between protesters and the police, who tried to suppress the demonstration by force. This event, which had a wide echo in the national press, brought immigration detention to the attention of the public.

Numerous other protests have occurred over the years, including a national demonstration organised in Turin in November 2002. Also in November 2002, a demonstration against immigration detention and the Bossi-Fini law took place in front of the Regina Pacis detention centre, near Lecce. During the demonstration, the migrants detained showed the marks of police violence, and it was discovered that on the night of November 22, there about twenty migrants had attempted to escape. Yet, stopped by the police, they had taken back to the detention centre and exposed to psychological and physical violence, including the imposition of eating pork on police’s batons. In 2005 the centre’s manager, some staff members, and ten carabinieri were finally condemned for their crimes. All migrants who were victims of violence on that painful night asked to bring a civil action in the criminal proceedings and, for the first time in the Italian history, the Court accepted (Accardo 2019).

So, too, detainees have continued to challenge the detention system and its related violence through actions ranging from escapes, self-harm, hunger strikes and riots, to the use of poetry, music, and graffiti. They also used all means available to them to oppose deportation, also relying on their physical ability to resist police intervention. As Biljana, a Montenegrian woman who had been confined in Ponte Galeria, explained talking about a collective deportation of Nigerian women:

‘They were taking them back to their country, and the Africans did not want to go . . . . Police officers came, militaries, everybody had that truncheon to beat them, and the Africans were beating (the police officers) and (the police officers) were beating the African women . . . They (the women) took off their shirts so they could not be held. Everyone was fighting naked.’

To support these struggles, No-Border activists have often gathered in front of the detention centres to communicate with and offer solidarity to those detained inside, while also using independent radio stations to amplify their voices. Noteworthy, in 2002, activists climbed over the walls and gates of the detention centre in via Mattei, Bologna, which at that time was still in construction, and dismantled it, piece by piece, to delay its opening. In 2011, protesters managed to ‘invade’ the centre again, this time while there were people confined within it, and once inside they displayed a banner with the slogan ‘Welcome to all new European people’. In Turin’s Brunelleschi detention centre a hole was opened in the centre’s walls in order for bystanders to see the degradation and inhumane conditions inside (Accardo 2019). In Rome’s detention centre of Ponte Galeria, where sixty-six asylum seeking women from Nigeria were about to be deported  in spite of their experiences of gendered violence and violations, a solidarity network composed by feminist collectives, anarchist groups, faith-based organisations, lawyers and ordinary people was created. This heterogeneous network engaged in different actions to support women’s claims, ranging from legal aid and hospitality to giving media visibility to the case and organising protests to disrupt the deportation operations. Beyond the particularity of the single protests and mobilisations carried out over the years, ‘Hurriya’ - which in Arabic means ‘freedom’- became the main motto of the battle against immigration detention.

And yet, in spite of this grassroots push for change, these sites of structural uncertainty and instability continue to operate, and largely remain in the shadow of the gaze – and awareness – of the majority of people.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Update on the situation of Italian CPRs during the Covid-19 pandemic (12 March - 24 April 2020):

information provided by Paola Petrucco, Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights Coalizione Italiana per le Libertà e i Diritti Civili, CILD.

The situation in Italy’s immigration detention centres seems to have developed opposite to that in the hotspots. The number of foreign national detainees in CPRs has gone from 425 (12 March) to 250 (24 April). Although all the centers have registered a slight decrease in the detained migrant population, the greatest reduction has occurred in the CPR Rome - Ponte Galeria. In addition, several of the issues that emerged the midst of the epidemic (i.e. precarious sanitary conditions, inadequate medical assistance, impossibility of ensuring social distancing, lack of personal protective equipment, restrictions to the use of mobile phones), have been addressed to some degree in all centers. Almost two months in, the National Guarantor reports that “no Centre has a condition of overcrowding” and that most CPR managers appear to have strengthened their response to the virus. They have done so by, allegedly, setting up isolation wards, conducting thorough medical screenings, allowing video calls, carrying out disinfections, providing personal hygiene kits, and informing detainees about necessary precautionary measures. The overall structures of CPRs, however, have made it impossible to ensure social distancing requirements.


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