Police during a protest at a migrant repatriation center in Milan, Italy, in October 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Andrea Fasani
Police during a protest at a migrant repatriation center in Milan, Italy, in October 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Andrea Fasani

Italy's national detainee rights chief has said that severe problems remain at the country's migrant repatriation centers (CPRs). He is calling for structural changes as well as "legislative intervention."

Italy's detainee rights ombudsman Mauro Palma wrote in a report published Tuesday that migrants at repatriation centers were exposed to problems that "weigh irremediably on [their] rights."

He called for "structural improvements" and on local health authorities to regularly check on hygiene conditions at CPRs. He also said that migrants at CPRs should have the possibility to make and receive telephone calls.

Palma said that CPRs' "rudimentary architecture" lacked spaces for socializing and worship, "which also increases tension."

Fewer than 50% deported

Palma and his team monitored centers in Turin, Rome-Ponte Galeria, Palazzo San Gervasio, Bari, Brindisi-Restinco, Caltanissetta-Pian del Lago, Trapani-Milo, Gradisca d'Isonzo, Macomer, and Milan between April 2019 and February 2021.

In his statement on Tuesday, Palma also said that the Italian repatriation system lacked effectiveness -- in 2019, fewer than 50% of migrants detained were actually repatriated, the ombudsman said.

Palma noted that the number of CPRs had been expanded in recent years, which showed "an intensification of the use of administrative detention." He criticized that new centers "had been created without improvement in the problems that affected the older facilities."

'Legislative changes necessary'

The detainee rights ombudsman welcomed the government's decision to decrease the the period migrants can be held at CPRs from 180 to 90 days. (Which reverses a policy implemented in the controversial 'Salvini decree'.)

However, Palma also argued that more changes in Italy's migrant detention policy were needed. He said that some 20 years after their introduction, CPRs were still places that had not been well-considered.

"Legislative intervention on the ways in which to 'detain' is necessary," Palma said.

Migrant protests at CPRs

Palma has criticized conditions at CPRs -- centers that host migrants who were not granted the the right to reside in Italy and who are thus eligible for deportation -- numerous times in recent years. In December, he said that the long time migrants had to wait at CPRs before deportations "that may or may not happen" led to frustration and violence.

Migrants and rights activists have repeatedly criticized conditions at CPRs; in recent years, there have been revolts, escape attempts and protest against the living conditions at several CPRs.


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