The report, entitled “Black Holes: detention without charge in Repatriation Centres for Migrants – Centri di Permanenza per i Rimpatri (CPRs)”, firstly highlights how the deprivation of personal liberty of undocumented migrants has become the favored instrument utilised by Italian authorities to control migration flows. The utilisation of this instrument has raised questions around various aspects of this practice, including the span of places of deprivation of liberty for undocumented migrants, the extension of the maximum length of this restrictive measure and the motives and practices used by authorities to impose these measures. Detention centres for migrants have become known as facilities of an extended stay, where fundamental rights are either neglected or completely denied. It should firstly be noted that CPRs are managed by private companies.
Between 2018 and 2021, 44 million euros have been spent on the management, by private companies, of ten CPRs currently open in Italy. When you add costs for facilities maintenance and police staff, the result is that the average daily expenditure amounts to 40,150 euros to detain less than 400 people per day. In 50% of cases, these people will be deprived of their freedom without any possibility of actually being repatriated to their country of origin. The fact that detention centres for migrants are managed by private companies is one of the main core sources of detrimental conditions for detained people, because there is an overriding financial interest based on the maximization of profits which ensures that, as a consequence, attention to the needs of those detained is fairly non-existent.
In fact, the standards within these detention centres, as is highlighted in the report, in many cases do not meet, standards established by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture. Additionally, in the report, it has been highlighted that, beside the social cooperatives who manage the CPR, there are international corporations that operate in the area of migrant detention and services for penitentiary institutes across Europe. For example, the CPR of Macomer (in Sardinia) is managed by Ors Italia, a company based in Zurich that manages centers for migrants detention in four European Countries: Sweden, Germany, Austria and Italy. In 2015, Ors was mentioned in a report by Amnesty International which denounced the inhuman conditions of migrants in the Austrian detention centre of Traiskirchen.
As far as healthcare is concerned, the report highlights the complete absence of attention towards the assessment of the suitability of migrants to be detained in the centres. As a matter of fact, 90% of the lawyers interviewed said that, in most cases, there is no certificate of eligibility for detention in the judicial authority’s files. Even though the judicial authority must verify the suitability of the foreigner to be detained in the centre, this doesn’t always eventuate and thus grave bureaucratic mistakes can still occur, in particular, in the CPRs of Rome, Turin, Brindisi, Bari, Trapani, Caltanissetta and Potenza. For those detained in Macomer’s CPR, for example, some lawyers said they have never found a certificate of eligibility for detention in judicial authority’s files. Moreover, the report underlines that the foreign person concerned is not always present at hearings validating and extending their detention. Hearings typically last a questionable 5 to 10 minutes. These problematic elements undermine the right of defense of the person concerned and some lawyers who assisted the people detained in the CPR of Macomer have notably characterised validation hearings as “fake hearings”, also because lawyers defending foreigners are only able to access the dossier on their clients very shortly before hearings.
In many cases, undocumented migrants find themselves in CPRs despite not being suitable for detention. A notable example is that of Moussa Balde, a 23-year-old Guinean young man, who was first violently beaten in Ventimiglia and then taken to the CPR of Turin, where he then. committed suicide. His critical psycho-physical condition should have been a clear indicator of his unsuitability for detention. In addition, Balde was placed in forced isolation in the “Ospedaletto” (small hospital) area of the Turin CPR. The “Ospedaletto” was later closed by the National Guarantor (Garante Nazionale) because it was considered a completely inadequate structure and lacking in essential requirements for health necessities. As explained in CILD’s report, provisions governing CPRs, unlike those governing the penitentiary system, do not include the use of solitary confinement, but foresee only the possibility of placing persons detained in “health observation rooms”, if needed. Nevertheless, the use of isolation is a common practice, however illegitimate.
Another serious issue that emerges in CILD’s report is the high percentage of abuse in. administering psychiatric drugs. Psychiatric assistance in CPRs, as highlighted in the report, should be managed by the national healthcare system (overseen by the so-called “ASLs” in Italy), but in the CPRs, the monitoring of psychiatric “care” and the administration of psychiatric drugs is often managed by psychologists and nurses appointed by the private facility management companies. By way of example: in the CPR of Milan, according to the testimony of the managing body, the percentage of abuse in administering psychiatric drugs reaches 80%. The situation is made worse by a lack of connection with the local ASLs and, therefore, there is a total absence of adequate psychiatric assistance. In the CPR of Turin, according to medical staff within the centre, psychotropic drugs are used commonly but without adequate monitoring – for the entire year of 2020, no psychiatrist visited the facility. In the CPR of Rome, according to the competent health authority, the percentage of detained people who were administered psychiatric drugs and anxiolytics reached 65-70%. The abuse in the administration of psychiatric drugs recorded in most CPRs, as highlighted by the report, is due to the lack of oversight by the national health system of the private management of health services, with the result being overuse of pharmacological intervention in order to ensure discipline and security in the facilities. Indeed, within CPRs, due to the unbearable conditions within the centres, there is an abundance of riots and protests which erupt, only to be quickly and violently repressed by the police (or with the excessive administration of tranquilizers).
Moreover, in the report it was noted that no information concerning the inclusion of detainees in COVID-19 vaccination programs has been received from the CPRs of Milan,Trapani, Rome, Bari and Caltanissetta. The number of deaths in CPRs, as highlighted in the report, has never been as high as in recent years. Between June 2019 and July 2021, in addition to Moussa Balde, five other foreign citizens lost their lives, mainly due to their needs being neglected. E.H., a 20-year-old Nigerian boy, passed from suicide in the CPR of Brindisi on 2 June 2019. Although the Bolzano mental health centre had confirmed his strong psychiatric instability at the time, he was considered suitable for detention. Hossain Faisal, a 32-year-old Bengali man, died in the CPR hospital in Turin on 8 July 2019, allegedly due to a heart attack. He too was considered suitable for detention, despite his precarious condition. Aymen Mekni, a 34-year-old Tunisian man, died, due to sudden illness, in the CPR of Caltanissetta on 12 January 2020 (conditions of acute degradation were found inside the centre where he died) and Vakhtang Enukidze, a Georgian man, died in the CPR of Gradisca d’Isonzo, on January 18 2020. Despite severe illness and pain, he remained in detention far from the infirmary area and without supervision and healthcare. Orgest Turia, a 28-year-old Albanian man, died in the CPR of. Gradisca d’Isonzo on 14 July 2020 due to an overdose of methadone, leaving doubts about how he was able to provide himself with that drug.
In the light of the elements that emerged in the report, it is possible to observe that the CPRs are places where not only people “guilty of travel”, but no actual crime, are deprived of their personal liberty, but the minimum standards in terms of basic fundamental rights are not met. The reality is that CPRs are “black holes”, where basic human rights are violated.
Photo via Osservatorio Diritti/Twitter.