Police intervene after a revolt by migrants, mostly Tunisians, hosted in a CPR in Milan | Photo: ANSA/Andrea Fasani
Police intervene after a revolt by migrants, mostly Tunisians, hosted in a CPR in Milan | Photo: ANSA/Andrea Fasani

Tunisians – who make up more than 70% of migrants deported from Italy – often lack access to legal representation and face inhumane living conditions at pre-deportation centers, according to a recent paper published by three advocacy groups.

Many Tunisian migrants face bad living conditions in Italian pre-deportation centers (CPRs) and lack access to legal support, states a paper recently published by three prominent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- Avocats sans Frontières (ASF), the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES), and the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI). The paper is reportedly based on interviews with Tunisians repatriated from Italy.

"The journey of Tunisian migrants bears resemblance to purgatory, from interception at sea by the Italian Coast Guard to their repatriation in Tunisia, and their detention in different places," the NGOs said.

They said that conditions for Tunisians at CPRs "present only the tip of the iceberg as concerns migration management, which shows that the current approach to migration is moving in a direction that revolves around security." They called on Italian authorities "to ensure conditions compatible with international law and human rights."

Tunisians make up the majority of migrants forcibly or voluntarily returned to their home country from Italy, according to the three NGOs -- over 70% of repatriated migrants. In 2020, 1,922 Tunisians were reportedly returned, and 1,872 in 2021.

Tunisia is considered a "safe country of origin" in Italy, which means that Tunisians' asylum requests are typically rejected and they face faster deportation procedures.

Migrants lack access to legal advice, information

The NGOs said that migrants at CPRs faced severe barriers to seeking legal defence and to appealing their case to a judge.

Most of the migrants the three NGOs interviewed reportedly told them they did not receive information about their cases in a language they understood. According to the NGO's paper, 89% of former CPR detainees they interviewed were not informed of the reasons for their detention, some 80% were not issued any sort of document by the Italian authorities during their repatriation, and 70% said that they had not received any information on international protection.

"Limiting access to information for migrants has become a practise used to stop people from claiming their rights and thus a way to speed up repatriation measures," the NGOs said.

No beds or hygiene products; not enough food; many feel unsafe

Migrants reportedly did not just face barriers to information and legal representation -- living conditions at the centers are also severely lacking, the NGO's paper found.

"52.9% said that they had not had access to a bed or bench, or a mattress and clean blanket at the CPRs; 56.8% said that they had not received hygiene kits and access to services, in addition to clean clothes; 68.6% said that there was not enough food," the paper said.

The authors were also told by many of those interviewed that they did not feel safe inside the facilities. 88.2% of interviewees reportedly said that they had been subjected to mistreatment inside the CPRs -- in a majority of cases by the center's staff.


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