The photo shows a police van in front of a repatriation center in Northern Italy. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA
The photo shows a police van in front of a repatriation center in Northern Italy. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA

Serious problems were found in four Permanent Repatriation Centers (CPR) for migrants that were visited this year by the national watchdog for detainees' rights. One of the major problems seen was the lack of shared spaces and furniture that ''weighs heavily on the quality of life'' in the facilities.

Several problems were found by the Italian watchdog for detainee rights in four out of five Permanent Repatriation Centers (CPR) for migrants visited. The centers are in Brindisi-Restinco, Palazzo San Gervasio , Bari and Turin and were visited between February and March.

The shortcomings include: no cafeteria or prayer niches, police refusing to allow any shared recreational activities for security reasons, only one out of every four showers working, bathrooms that lack doors, and lights being left on the entire night in the sleeping dormitories. 

The interior ministry said that efforts to improve the facilities are often thwarted by ''continual and violent behavior by guests that damage the rooms and furniture''. 

Previous complaints not addressed 

The latest report by detainees watchdog Mauro Palma upheld the negative assessment on the centers given in a 2007 report. The report noted the lack of shared spaces and of some furniture that ''weigh heavily on the quality of life'' and lead to ''the risk of situations of degradation even in the exercise of the most elementary rights''. 

The environment in the CPRs, he noted, seems ''comparable to that of a jail'', with bars across the windows, high metal doors in some places and the impossibility for guests to go to different sections. 

Those inside the centers are living in a condition of ''mere confinement'' in which they are ''excluded from the collectivity, almost as if considering them a 'non person'', he said. Palma addressed the interior ministry in providing recommendations. 

Response from the interior ministry 

Immigration department chief Gerarda Pantalone underscored that the administration is ''constantly involved'' in improving the centers and maintaining living standards, ''in full respect for the personal rights and dignity. 

However, every effort expended, entailing significant burdens, is often rendered in vain by the continual and violent behavior of guests that damage the facilities and the furniture, directly resulting in negative consequences on their own living conditions.'' 

The prefect then noted that the CPRs are ''places for temporary holding places for citizens of third countries while waiting for the implementation of orders for expulsion from Italian territory, and thus different in form from penitentiary detention facilities, in which punitive ends coexist with ones for rehabilitation''. 

On the lack of shared spaces, the ministry official noted that, ''in addition to the generalized lack of interest on the part of the guests to be involved in any activity organized in their free time there is a lack of facilities compared with the growing need for irregular foreigners to be repatriated and thus the inescapable need to use every available space within the center to increase capacity.''

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