28 July 2011

Daddy hung himself at the CIE of Milan

In a small town near Brescia, in northern Italy, along the shores of Lake Garda is a little five-year-old girl who has lost her desire to play. In her head is a single, insistent question: "When will daddy be here?" Because Dad is gone. Of course every now and then she talks to him. When he calls, her mother hands the phone over to her. He asks her how she is, and tells her not to worry, that he’s in Morocco and he will be back next week. Every time it’s the same story, but he never comes home. Only last time he said something different. It was July 12. ‘Honey, tomorrow I’m taking the plane and I’ll be home, are you happy?’ That night, however, they found him hanging from a rope in the bathroom of Section D in the Center for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) in Milan.

Because M. was not in Morocco. That was just a lie he made ​​up so as not to scare his daughter. Why make her suffer needlessly by telling her that her father was in a cage? Sooner or later he would be released from the CIE in via Corelli, since they did not have his passport and they could not identify him. It was just a matter of time. The six months were about to expire, precisely on July 12. The day before, he had already prepared his bags with his belongings. He felt a strange happiness overwhelm him. When, suddenly, they summoned him to a hearing before the justice of the peace. The whole thing lasted a few minutes. Validated. Another two months in the cage. For him and for the Argentinean transsexual. The first two inmates in the Italian CIE’s to whom the new decree-laws on repatriations, which foresee up to 18 months in prison pending deportation, were applied.

It was a blow to the stomach. But after a few moments he was able to react. He began to cry out all the rage in his body, he refused to sign the validation and finally, mournfully returned to his cell. How was he going to explain this to his little girl? With what words? M. thought of nothing else all evening. Fortunately, when they saw him going into the bathroom, his cellmates intervened in time, before he died hanging.

It would have been the bitter end of a family man, in Italy for the past 15 years. That's right, because M. had lived in Italy since 1996. By now, Brescian by adoption, he was able to obtain his residency documents with the amnesty of 1998, and in 2004 became reunited with his wife, who he had married in Morocco the year before. The child arrived in 2006. Soon after, he was arrested. An old story of a small drug deal, a foolish act committed before he married, that years later ruined his life.

A four-year sentence. Two and a half years in prison and one and a half under house arrest close to his family. At the end of the sentence, on January 15 of last year, the police called him to the barracks and from there they took him to the police station, where a police car awaited to take him to the CIE of Milan. That was the last day he saw his daughter.

Since then, more than six long months have passed. And still nothing. Because if the new law on repatriation passes, which has already been approved by the House and is being discussed in the Senate, M. will have twelve more months to serve behind bars. If they repatriate him, it would not be the first time that an Italian-Moroccan father is separated from his own children and wife.

I think of Raffa , who grew up in Turin and from Turin was expelled to Morocco in October 2009 with his wife and a child of eight months in Italy. And I think of Kabbour , who was also repatriated to Morocco in March 2011, even tough in Italy he had three generations of his family: parents, sisters, wife and children.
But perhaps M. will not be expelled and in one year will return to Brescia, with no documents, but once again with his family. And then who knows if the little girl will recognize him. Because men who come out of the CIEs are reduced to rags, broken by months of detention, daily humiliations and insane drug therapies.

translated by Camilla Gamba