That red and white flag waving in front of the CIE in Turin is the Peruvian flag. And the forty soaking-wet people who continue to shout ‘Freedom!’ under the rain are the friends of Ismael, the latest detainee to arrive at the identification and expulsion centre of Turin, Italy. In the city he is a familiar face among the Peruvian community. And today's demonstration could be the first of a long series of demonstrations asking for his release. Outside the walls of the CIE are his sister Angy, his friends from the cultural circle Jose Carlos Mariategui, and fellow members of his party, the Peruvian Nationalist Party of current President Ollanta Humala. Offering added support are a few Italian young people from the No-CIE movement. Not even the torrential rain was able to stop them. It was that important for them to make sure he felt their presence. And in some way to awaken the Peruvian community - and not only -from the numbness regarding the issue of expulsions.
Beyond the wall, the detainees can instantly feel that something is happening outside, partly because of the music blasting loudly from the speakers in the truck, partly because of the heartfelt appeals made on Juan’s microphone. And when the sky gives a respite from the rain, a few Tunisian inmates climb onto the rooftops and raise their hands in greeting, making a V with two fingers: victory. At the same moment, from the purple air a column of black smoke rises, a sign that something is burning, probably a mattress that has just been set on fire in protest.
Shortly after, the demonstration ends with the voice of Ismael himself. The demonstration’s stereo is tuned to the radio frequencies on Turin’s Radio Black Out, which at that moment is broadcasting a live phone interview with him. Amplified at full volume, his voice booms from CIE throughout the entire street. Thereby letting the inhabitants of the neighbourhood hear, for once and in spite of themselves, a first-person testimony from CIE. And to hear how easy it is to lose 18 months one’s own freedom in today’s Italy.
Ismael was arrested on September 7. A routine roadside check. He was driving the same van which for the previous few days he’d been using for a removal service. ID, please. But he did not have his ID documents. Yet he’s been living in Italy for ten years, ten years of hard work to support his wife and child in Peru. First as a bricklayer, then as a house painter, and now with the removal service. But everyone knows in Italy it’s not enough to have a job to obtain a residence permit. He tried twice to straighten out his documents, always through the immigration quotas decrees, but both times something went wrong. And so it turned out that they took him away, just like that, still wearing his work clothes, and he found himself without a clue in the centre for identification and expulsion (CIE) in Turin. Where since yesterday he was transferred to isolation confinement, having been the victim of a seemingly unprovoked attack by some prisoners of his own section.
A few hours after the protest, the photos of this event are already on internet. They were published by the Peruvian circle Mariategui on their facebook page, which has over 1,800 friends, including a flyer for the release of Ismael. And with this comment:
“AYER SE INIZIO LA PRIMERA BATALLA POR LA LIBERAZION DE UN PERUANO HONESTO Y TRABAJADOR DETENIDO EN ITALIA TURÌN POR SER INDOCUMENTADO... ES UN PERUANO K APOYA A SU HERMANA Y A SUS SOBRINO QUE ESTAN EN ITALIA Y TIENE QUE ALIMENTAR A SU POBRE HIJO K ESTA EN EL PERù... BASTA YA DE SOPORTAR TANTAS INJUSTICIAS COMETIDOS A LOS PERUANOS EN EL EXTERIOR, AQUì IN ITALIA EL EMBAJADOR Y EL CONSUL PERUANO BIEN GRACIAS PARA ELLOS "AQUI NO PASA NADA", COMO SIEMPRE INDIFERENTE, PERO SIEMPRE HEMOS TENIDO EL APOYO DEL PUEBLO Y ASOCIACIONES ITALIANAS QUE ESTUBIERòN CON NOSOTROS AYER , EN UN DìA DE TANTA LLUVìA NO LOS DETUVO PARA NADA ENTRARON EN CALOR , AGITANDO LA BANDERA DEL PERù Y PIDIENDO LA LIBERACION DEL PERUANO ISMAEL. SEGUIREMOS LUCHANDO POR UN MUNDO LIBRE ì BASTA DE INJUSTICIA !!!!!!!!!!”
Everything indicates that there will be other similar events in the coming weeks. However, the importance of a precedent remains. Never had it happened before that a community of friends and family of an inmate in a CIE organized themselves independently in a public protest to plead for his release.
Think about what would happen if the personal circle of each of the inmates in CIE started to protest. Maybe it's the same question that the agents of DIGOS (Italian investigation and special operations police unit) on the other side of the road, opposite to the old entrance of the CIE, asked themselves while watching the protest in astonishment.
Yet it is not such a far-fetched idea. Because it is true that 2011 was characterized by the presence in the Cies of many Tunisians who had just landed in Lampedusa with no contacts in Itlay. But it is also true that if, after the summer, landings from Tunisis are going to cease or at least decrease consistently, then arrests and raids in our cities will resume and even intensify. And the CIEs will return to fill up with ‘quoteunquoteitalians’, people who have spent a lifetime here, and who have a wife and children here. So sit-ins such as the one for Ismael could become the norm.
PS Ysmael was finally deported at the end of September 2011
translated by Camilla Gamba