30 October 2009

Birthday party in the CIE of Rome. But the girl is 16!

Her parents are Croatian, but she was born in Venice. In 1993. She is sixteen. She celebrated her birthday on 12 September with an impromptu surprise party organised by the older inmates of the Centre for Identification and Expulsion of Ponte Galeria, Rome. The law prohibits the detention of minors in deportation centres. But Elvira- this is what we’ll call the girl without revealing her real name for privacy reasons- has no documents to prove her age. And the X-ray of the wrist - obligatory in these cases - has given a negative response. Medicine says Elvira is 25 years old. Elvira is fluent in Italian, because she grew up in our country. Her parents fled from the war in Croatia in 1991. And they returned only a few years after the end of the conflict. Elvira does not remember the dates, but she says she was a child. At home, however, she always watched Italian TV, and her parents taught her and her older brother to speak Italian. It was with her 26-year-old brother that Elvira left for her summer holiday in Italy, three months ago. They came into the country legally, with a stamp on their passports at customs. The problem arose in Messina.

There, Elvira was stopped by police on charges of attempted theft, and they seized her passport to verify its validity. That passport would have been enough to get her out, but no one is able to retrieve it. The brother, who is still Rome, hosted by his uncles, informed his mother in Croatia, and a few days ago she was able to send the birth certificates issued by the municipality. The package arrived at Ponte Galeria at the end of last week. And Elvira is back to freedom at last. They transferred her to a residential institution for minors, from which she ran away two days later to join her brother and uncles to Rome and to go home. For once, the story has a happy ending. But those 47 days spent inside the cages of Ponte Galeria at 16, she will not easily forget.


translated by Camilla Gamba