Migrants at the Lampedusa hotspot Photo: ANSA
Migrants at the Lampedusa hotspot Photo: ANSA

Three Italian organizations have denounced violations of human rights and violence against migrants, including children, at the Lampedusa hotspot and the deportation center in Potenza.

A report by  Italian Coalition for Freedom and Civil Rights, the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration, and Indiewatch contains findings of abuse against migrants, including children, at the two locations in Sicily and Potenza. It says migrants and asylum seekers at the two sites have been victims of human rights violations and the right to defence, as well as inhumane living conditions and violence. In March, a delegation of lawyers and cultural mediators visited Lampedusa to gather accounts from people living at the hotspot there. 

Living conditions on Lampedusa 

The hotspot on Lampedusa was ordered closed for remodeling on March 13, following complaints of inhumane living conditions there. According to the organizations, sanitary facilities at the hotspot did not have doors, there was no cafeteria, and mattresses were "dirty and in poor condition." The report said people were sleeping "in large rooms that can host up to 36 people without any separation between men, women, and children," and that hot water "is only ensured for one hour per day, while running water in the bathrooms is suspended between the hours of 9pm and 7am." It said security "is practically non-existent". 

During the visit, volunteers from the organization took accounts from Tunisian citizens who said they had expressed their willingness to request international protection but "their applications were never formalized." The report said that often, out of desperation, hotspot residents "would perpetrate acts of self-harming or would try to rebel." It said during these episodes, "law enforcement at the center responded, according to witness accounts, with violence, arbitrary searches, insults and threats." On one occasion, "police responded with force, indiscriminately taking on men, women, and children." At least two people (an eight-year-old and a 23-year-old woman) were taken to the emergency room after reporting blunt traumas resulting from beatings, the report said. It said two lawyers were denied entrance to the center to meet with their clients, which constitutes a "grave violation of the right to defence."

"Very serious violations" at Potenza closed removal center 

The report cited that "following the closure of the Lampedusa hotspot, also due to the illegal lack of formalizing the application for international protection, the large majority of guests were issued a deferred refoulement decree, as well as an order for detention at the closed removal center (CPR)" for repatriation. It said the procedure "is considered illegal since the holding of asylum seekers can only take place in exceptional cases as strictly established by law." The organizations denounce the fact that at the Potenza CPR "there were very serious violations of the right to defence, which impeded the migrants from being assisted by their attorneys during the confirmation hearings" regarding their detention.

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