Migrants at the repatriation center in Bari | Photo: ANSA
Migrants at the repatriation center in Bari | Photo: ANSA

Four people have been placed under investigation by prosecutors in the southern Italian city of Bari, after a probe revealed that a repatriation center in the city was not providing adequate health care and checkups to residents at the end of 2019.

The CPR repatriation center in Bari was "fraudulently kept without medical assistance for five days a week, a breach of duty that also included the failure to carry out medical checkups on new guests and to provide medicines and treatment" to migrants in November and December 2019, investigative sources in Bari in the southern Puglia region said on Tuesday, October 5.

Investigators suspect the situation continued during the COVID-19 emergency. Prosecutors in Bari probing the alleged fraud carried out by the Cooperative Badia Grande and Associazione Paceco Soccorso have placed four people under investigation.

People under investigation include the director of the center until February 2021, the doctor in charge of the CPR until December 2019, the legal representative of the cooperative and the representative of the association Paceco Soccorso which was responsible for providing medical assistance at the CPR.

Investigation after protests by migrants at the center

The four suspects are being investigated on charges of fraud in the execution of the management contract, in particular making sure that adqueate medical assistance services were on offer. Three of them are also accused of violating security measures in the workplace by not carrying out medical examinations of new guests, with the associate risk of the spread of any infectious diseases those new arrivals may have brought into the center.

The investigation, carried out by flying squad police and coordinated by prosecutor Michele Ruggiero, began in 2019 after a series of protests staged by residents.

Some of the facility's guests set mattresses and furniture on fire saying they did not have any type of medical assistance and were not given the medicines they said they needed.

The probe "highlighted that the precariousness of the essential services provided by the cooperative contributed to creating the conditions which led to exasperation, protests and the lighting of fires inside the facility," investigative sources said.

The charges

The cooperative, which still manages the center, should have provided "medical assistance for 48 hours a week with doctors on call in order to guarantee medical assistance on a daily basis with hours 'spread' over five-six working days" say the investigators.

They say the center was responsible for providing medical personnel "on call during the remaining periods." Instead, according to the charges, the suspects dodged the rules by "ensuring the presence of a doctor only for 48 consecutive hours and for two or three days a week at the most, at the end of which the doctor left the CPR and went back to his residence in Erice, in Sicily, from which he did not guarantee his availability and the possibility of quickly returning to the CPR in Bari" if needed.

Following the investigation, the social cooperative Badia Grande said in a statement, released by lawyers Vincenzo Lo Re and Donatella Buscaino, that it had "fulfilled all the specifications required by the tender [to run the center]" and that it is "able to provide evidence of this to judicial authorities in charge of the investigation."

 

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