Italy - Closing detention centres: the struggle is always on
10.Feb.06 - The debate on migrants detention centres has lately been hot in Italy. From the Mare Aperto Forum last july, when 13 regional Governors gathered together to express their condemnation to migrants detention centers (CPTs), up to journalist Fabrizio Gatti's reportage witnessing the detention conditions inside the CPT of Lampedusa island, the issue has been on the front page several times.
For the left-centre coalition (Prodi's Unione), the system of CPTs "has to be reviewed but shall not be abandoned, detention centres have degenerated the Bossi Fini law, but their role will be essential". When asked about the future of migrants' detention centres, the leaders of Unione start the refrain of "transforming these inhuman places into structures where the value of reception goes together with the necessity to control and govern the phenomenon, structures where only some categories of foreigners will be kept in the higher respect of human rights".
What they mean won't be a surprise for us, as the invoked revision doesn't conceive the concept of a sacred right to freely circulate for all human beings. What they mean is already under our eyes: at least seven CPTs are now called centri di identificazione for asylum seekers, where the last European directives on asylum are applied. Multifunctional places (with jail-like gates, electrical wire, video cameras, etc) where one area should serve as detention camp for right-less people and one other responds to the EU parameters of protection and reception. A multifunctional place which closes in a cage all new comers, processing their situation with an expulsion decree.
In the pre-election contest, with fresh witnessing of what happens inside a multifunctional centre such as that of Lampedusa, two new CPTs are going to open very soon: one in Bari and the other near Gorizia, in the town of Gradisca d'Isonzo.
Their opening has been greatly contested so far, with activists targeting the firms which will manage the structures and the local administration expressing against their opening.
Certain of their impending opening, a great deal of activity is made to discourage companies from running these lagers, first occupying the offices of the Italian Red Cross in Bari (http://www.globalproject.info/art-6079.html ),then those of Confraternita Misericordiae not only in Bari, then occupying those of the Green Cross in Gradisca d'Isonzo and last Wednesday with an action of blocking the activity of Cooperativa Minerva. Cooperativa Minerva is a company working in the fields of facilities and care-services striking us for being associated to the "Lega delle Cooperative", the powerful league based on north and center of Italy whose tradition is linked to the party of Democratici di Sinistra (the former Italian Communist Party, PCI).
Minerva has won the contract to run the big migrants' detention centre of Gradisca d'Isonzo, the bigger multifunctional CPT of the northern Italy, whose inner structure was finally revealed by non-authorized pictures published on Global Project website. The sanctioning action took place in the early morning, before the daily opening of Minerva. Around one hundred of activists of "centri sociali" of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, and Emilia Romagna have blocked all ways-in, preventing workers from getting in the factory and making Minerva company "out of order" for one day. Gates and doors were sealed and the banners put around said that Minerva staff is galley sergeant.
Italy is going to election in less than two months with an almost certain winning of the center-left coalition (Unione). No mention is made in its political program about closing CPTs, but only about a process of "humanisation" of these structures, whose nature is now self-evident. In this context, the action of antiracist and antiprecariety movements has moved to new steps of struggle against migrants'detention. From a first phase which included even dismantling actions of opening CPTs (see Bologna and Gradisca d'Isonzo), methods and characteristics of the struggle have moved nowadays to another phase, where antiracist movements put pressure of on the economical subjects who are called to run the system of detention-expulsion. The whole ecomical network is targeted (meal catering companies, airlines, travel agencies, main suppliers) because migrants detention is like a war business: tens of firms, companies, cooperatives maKe profit on the exploitment, exclusion and cageing of paperless migrants going along with the activity of one single CPT.
As it is, religious associations (i.e. Confraternita della Misericordia) strive for the monopole of the business, while more and more "red" cooperatives working in the area of the social welfare (i.e. Minerva and Malgrado tutto) are called in. Both are to demonstrate that the invoked "humanisation" is at hand.
The role of movements is now crucial to discourage anybody from investing in this "field", which is really attractive as it's very well financed (in a general situation where funds for social policies are being cut down) and to refuse the paradox of a CPT respecting human rights. In a moment where a reformation of immigration policies (along with migrants'detention system) is being planned, it's important to produce concrete signs of the rejection of any suggestion of "nice ways" to spoil people from basic rights, like the right to move. These actions not only show all interests linked to our immigration policies, but also give the companies involved a chance to put into practice conscientious objection, like Croce verde gradiscana which pull back from the contract for running Gradisca d'Isonzo CPT.