27 September 2011

Floating CIEs: the exposé comes, and the investigation begins

Young Tunisians illegally detained on the floating CIEs in the port of Palermo, Italy, photos by Danila D’Amico

The Palermo prosecutor opened an investigation into the floating CIEs, or rather, two ships still stationed in the port of Palermo, Sicily, with about three hundred Tunisians aboard, illegally detained for weeks. The decision of the prosecutor Agueci Leonardo, who is coordinating the investigation, came after the presentation of a petition presented this morning by some members of the anti-racist movement of Palermo. Among the signatories of the complaint are Professor Fulvio Vassallo Palaeologo (lawyer and member of the Association for Studies on Immigration Law- Asgi), Judith Gleitze (Borderline Sicilia, which in recent months has constantly monitored the situation in Lampedusa) and then Peter Milazzo (of the Sicilian branch of the Italian Trade Union CGIL) and Anna Bucca (of the Italian Cultural Association ARCI). The petition noted that the Tunisian prisoners on board the ships in the port of Palermo are being illegally deprived of their personal freedom, without the right to defence and without the validation from a judge. It calls for clarity regarding the presence of six minors on board and a pregnant woman, as reported yesterday by the Democratic Party MP Alessandra Siragusa and the regional member of the democratics Pino Apprendi after visiting the floating CIE, at the margins of demonstrations organised by Palermo’s anti-racist movement. What follows is an excerpt from the petition, asking clarification also regarding the beatings that took place in Lampedusa against a Canadian activist and a Tunisian prisoner still in a coma at the Palermo hospital.

Extract from the petition to the Public Prosecutor of Palermo on the violations committed against the Tunisian inmates on the Floating CIEs.

"We ask that the State Prosecutor's Office verify the facts presented and determine whether an offence is taking place; in particular, if the foreign citizens detained on board the three ships, AUDACITY, MOBY FANTASY and MOBY VINCENT have found themselves, or are , in a state of illegal restriction of personal freedom, or whether the conditions exist for the offenses of independent violence; if against them administrative measures have been adopted and notified, to justify the deprivation of liberty by the police and if said restrictive measures have been promptly subjected to judicial scrutiny under the terms imposed by the applicable national and European legislation; if there are grounds of offences, in relation to the dates of the measures described, with particular attention to the dates of issue and notification thereof, pursuant to art. 476 of the Penal Code, material falsehood committed by a public officer in public deeds; if there are grounds for crimes relating to the conduct carried out in open opposition to the exercise of the right to defence, clearly limited where not entirely denied; whether there is any type of offense for the unlawful detention of minors for whom there has been no verification to ascertain whether they are accompanied or not; if there are potential offenses in the beatings sustained by the foreign citizen Naji Hsen still recovering at Palermo hospital and the aid worker Alexander Georges affected by unknown peoples on the island of Lampedusa, in the days following the fire in the structure of Contrada Imbriacola ".

(On the facebook page of the jurist Vassallo Palaeologo you can download the full text of the petition and adapt it to similar situations of unlawful detention in other parts of Italy)

Meanwhile, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, who this morning spoke to the parliamentary committee hearing on childhood, said that Lampedusa has been declared an "unsafe port". This means that until otherwise stated, the castaways rescued at sea will be taken to disembark at other ports, most likely in Porto Empedocle, in the province of Agrigento, Sicily, as occurred last week, the day after the beatings. Maroni also provided details of the new agreement with Tunisia, which includes 10 weekly flights for 50 passengers each, compared with two weekly flights with 30 seats each described in April’s agreement. But on October 23 in Tunisia the Constituent Assembly will be voted, and we’ll have to wait and see if the new government confirms the agreement.

What is certain is that the head of the ferry company Moby indicated that the Interior Minister paid for the rental of ships, now operating as a floating CIEs, until 31 December. And since in the CIEs riots and escapes occur one after the other with unprecedented frequency, we cannot exclude that the case of Palermo is just an experiment of which we will soon see repetitions. For this reason, as well, it is important that the court issues a statement on the matter.

translated by Camilla Gamba