16 November 2011

Empty promises. CIEs still under censorship

It was August 2, 2011. The Senate was approving the definitive law on returns, prolonging to 18 months the limit of detention in the Centres for Identification and Expulsion (CIEs). On that same day, a matter on the agenda was being passed, committing the government to remove circular 1305. That is the circular of April 1, 2011 which re-imposed censorship in Italy, prohibiting press access to CIEs. Three months have passed since August, and in the meantime the government has resigned. But circular 1305 is still valid. The only change was approved on November 8, 2011, through another circular, 1305 (4), authorizing official parliamentary and regional advisers to visit the facilities. Informing us of this is the Prefecture of Rome, to which I asked permission to visit the CIE of Ponte Galeria. What follows is the email response I received.

Notice the normal tones. All you need is bureaucracy. All you need is a norm, a code to cling to. And freedom of the press disappears. Almost in the name of the rule of law. Too bad there’s also something called the right to report. Not even the mobilization of July 25, which saw the participation of dozens of parliamentarians and journalists and hundreds of people throughout Italy united by the slogan LasciateCIEntrare, was of any use. At this point all that remains is the legal route. The appeal to the Regional Administrative Courts was filed months ago by lawyers Lana and Saccucci, defending journalists Liberti and Cosentino under the auspices of the Open Society Foundation. The entry of journalists is not the objective of a campaign against the detention of those in possession of expired documents. But it is definitely the place to start. To create a thread of communication between the inside and the outside. Just as we did in recent years with Fortress Europe, when it was possible to visit CIEs. But it’s because of the news that came out at that time that now someone wants to keep some journalists’ mouths shut.

At the moment, apart from MPs and regional councillors, the only organizations accredited to visit CIEs are: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, Caritas, and the Italian Red Cross (CRI). Now, clearly, the situation of the Red Cross is unique, since they are also the managing body of the CIEs in Milan and Turin and evidently don’t want to lose the two contracts worth millions because of public complaints. But we ask all other organizations - as well as parliamentarians and councillors - to exercise their rights. They are the only people who can. They have a civil responsibility from which they cannot back away at this time. We look forward to reading their reports on the CIEs. And if they choose silence, we will know whose side they have decided to stand on.

translated by Camilla Gamba