Monday, March 07, 2011

Italy: Revolts and riots in migrant detention centres

Mar 6 2011

1 March: after a revolt that has gone on for days, the detention centre in
Gradisca is in a state of collapse: one single cell left for the 100
detainees, people eating and sleeping in the corridors and in the canteen,
one bathroom for everyone. You can see some pictures here.

The detainees’ revolt almost completely destroyed the building, but the
detainees couldn’t be transferred, as the other detention centres were
packed full. Revolts and riots are not new to this detention centre;
things have been worsening over the last couple of years. In September
2009, a similar revolt was brutally repressed by the police.

The revolts are spreading to the rest of Italy, from North to South: in
Trapani’s detention centre in Sardinia the riots started on 23 February,
when a group of Tunisians detainess started smashing up their dormitory in
protest at conditions. A week later everything was still in pieces, but at
least there were no arrests and the detainees were allowed to apply for
humanitarian leave because of the situation in Tunisia. Trapani’s
detention centre is based in an old building that was once a care home.
It’s a bunch of dormitories facing a corridor locked up by iron bars.
Nothing else, not even a yard. A few days later a similar revolt exploded
in Modena, when 42 Tunisians just transferred there from Lampedusa started
throwing mattresses out of their dormitories and burning them. Activist
groups in Bologna occupied the centre on 1 March in solidarity with the
detainees. And Turin was in flames too, where it got so big that the Fire
Brigade had to be called. 30 Tunisian detainees went on hunger strike for
5 days, and only finished yesterday because one of them felt seriously
unwell and started to vomit blood. In several centres in Puglia (Southern
Italy) some detainees have managed to escape, unfortunately only to be
arrested: a trial has just started in Brindisi against 3 Tunisians
arrested for attempting to escape, and another similar one will soon start
in Bari where a group of detainees clashed with the police and then tried
to escape.

The last few years have seen a wave of revolts in detention centres: the
first time in the summer of 2009, just after the introduction of the new
‘security package’ that extended detention time for “illegal” inmigrants
from 2 to 6 months. And then last summer: see my previous posts. This time
the “leaders” of the revolts have mainly been the Tunisians recently
transferred all over Italy from Lampedusa in Sicily. Right now they
represent the biggest community in Italian detention centres. The revolts
started at the end of the transferrals, when the 300 and more Tunisians
were randomly transferred to either detention centres or “welcome centres”
for asylum seekers (which aren’t classed as prisons). The latter just left
straight away and many managed to get to France, while the rest ended up
locked up in detention centres.

The main source of this translation is an article published on the
‘Fortress Europe’ blog which has pages in several languages: check out the
English page for more articles and information.

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