30 September 2009

From the mansions of the rich to the CIE of Rome

He left without luggage. The police woke him up at six in the morning and informed him that today he would be repatriated. He didn’t even have time to shower. After nineteen years in Italy, employed as a house servant for some of the wealthiest families in Rome, the only memento Miguel brings back to his country is a battery. He’s carrying it in his stomach. He swallowed it along with bleach a month ago, when he was informed that he would remain at the Center for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) in Rome for six months instead of two. I met him during my visit to the CIE of Ponte Galeria last Wednesday. He was one of the souls of the hunger strike in the men’s section, which today is on its third day. This is his story.

Do you remember the Dini amnesty? It was 1995 and about 250,000 immigrants were given a residence permit, proving they had a job. Miguel was one of them. When he left Peru in 1990 he dreamed of setting aside enough money, in at most a couple of years, and return to Latin America to study sociology at University. Since then, however, has never left Italy. And he found himself behind the bars of the CIE of Ponte Galeria, after 20 years working as a servant and gardener for the wealthy families of upper-class Rome. First, six years in the house of Anna Fendi, then the Cavalli family, two years working for the Carabinieri General Paul Bruno of Nola, and finally at the service of the Lebanese Embassy in the Holy See. The residence permit? He lost it in 2003. At that time he was employed ‘in black’, and without an employment contract he could not renew his document. "I was probably so deceived by the ideal of the European Union,” he told me sadly . “They say that at the heart of the EU is man himself, that human dignity is inviolable, that his rights are inalienable: this really seems like a utopia. It makes me sad, very sad ... What a lie, really! "

He was taken to Ponte Galeria on June 20, 2009. At the end of August he was expecting to return to freedom, at the expiry of two months of detention. When he was informed that he was to spend another four months there, he could not get over it. He drank bleach and swallowed two batteries. Hoping by that gesture to turn the spotlight onto his story, on his broken dreams and on the contradictions of Italy that "stripped itself of honesty to dress with power". After eight days at the Grassi Ostia hospital, Miguel was taken back to the Centre for Identification and Expulsion. With a battery still in his stomach. At night he suffered from gastritis. But under the law he did not suffer enough to be released for health reasons. Last Wednesday, before greeting me, he quoted Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, confessing to be a great admirer of his: "There is no democracy without pluralism". Then he concluded with a bitter tone: "It's like with children. They are told tales of a monster that does not exist, so they can be manipulated with fear. The same is happening in this country. They killed judges Falcone and Borsellino, but you continue to be afraid of immigrants. "


translated by Camilla Gamba