14 December 2011

And now everyone inside CIEs! How to get a press pass

From words to deeds. For months, thousands of people have rallied demanding the right to enter CIEs, in order to tell the outside world about the institutional violence within those facilities. And now it's time to fulfil that commitment. Yesterday the censorship dropped. And already many of you have asked us how to untangle the bureaucracy of the Prefectures to obtain the pass. Today we explain everything. And we invite all journalists who read this blog to follow the procedure. So that each week stories may come to light, breaking the wall of silence while we wait for other walls to come down, freeing us once and for all from these places that ignore the rule of law and the principle of inviolability of personal freedom.

Let's start from the beginning. With the repeal of Circular 1305, journalists can visit centres for identification and expulsion (CIE), reception centres for asylum seekers (Cara) and initial reception centres (CPA). The prefectures on whose territory the centres are located authorise the visits. Their contacts can be found on this page of the Ministry of Interior. You must call and ask to speak to the Cabinet Chief of the Prefect, asking for a contact number (email or fax) where to send the request for a press pass to visit the centre. Ideally, you will send the fax or email directly from the news organization you work for. In addition to your information and that of the organisation, you must specify when you want to visit, who you want to interview, how long you'll need, and whether you want to take pictures, video, audio, or just take notes. Freelancers may also apply if they are registered journalists or publicists, and don’t necessarily need to be commissioned by a particular news organisation.

Authorization remains at the discretion of the Prefect, who basically makes a decision on the basis of the conditions of the centre. This means that if it is a period of riots, fires and tensions, they will tend to defer or prohibit the visit outright. In that case, however, all you have to do is insist, because in most cases the answers are affirmative. The waiting period for a response may vary from one week to several months.

Once inside, you are entitled to request the costs of the facility to the managing body. You can speak to the head of the police immigration office, and most importantly, you are entitled to speak to the prisoners. Keep in mind that in some centres the police tend to discourage, and in some cases prohibit, interviews with prisoners, with the usual excuse of journalists’ safety. In reality, you are entitled to meet with them, and to meet them inside the cages where they are locked up. So insist on this, you have nothing to fear. On the contrary, the inmates always have a strong desire to talk and expose what is happening to them inside the CIEs.

To communicate with the prisoners, ideally you must speak at least English and French, and preferably Arabic as well. Most inmates are in fact Arab and African (Anglophone and Francophone), and often their level of Italian is limited, or non-existent if they have just arrived. If you do not have the language skills, get a pass with a colleague who can help translate. Otherwise, ask for help from the prisoners in the cages that speak Italian. I advise you not to use the translators working for the managing bodies. Try to talk with the doctors as well regarding the issue of abuse of psychotropic drugs.

To verify the information gathered from interviews with prisoners, it is always best to ask them for the contact details of their lawyers and their relatives and former employers outside the CIE. To do this, it is always good to impress upon the authorities that you need enough time to gather the evidence necessary. The best thing to do is to have the time of visit put in writing from the Prefecture.

Before publishing, however, don’t forget to protect the privacy of your respondents. Some inmates prefer to remain anonymous, others do not want to be recognizable in photos. Each choice is legitimate and as such should be respected.

The CIEs currently in operation are located in Turin, Milan, Modena, Bologna, Gradisca d'Isonzo (Go), Rome, Bari, Brindisi, Lamezia Terme, Trapani (Vulpitta, and Milo). While the CIEs in Caltanissetta, Trapani (Chinisia), Crotone, Palazzo San Gervasio (Pz) and Santa Maria Capua Vetere (Cs) are currently closed. If you are interested in women's sections, you will find them in the CIEs of Turin, Rome, Bologna and Milan. The sections for transsexuals are in Milan and Rome. In Cagliari there is a reception centre (CPA) used as a de facto CIE. The CPA / CIE of Lampedusa is currently closed. Before you go, read the news available from our CIE tags carefully.

For reception centres for asylum seekers (CARA), look at the dedicated section of the website, bearing in mind that in the meantime the mega CARA of Mineo has opened in Catania, and is probably the most interesting to visit at the moment.

translated by Camilla Gamba