January 14th 2009 - Homeland Minister Robert Maroni issues a governmental decree that transfers the Trapani’s Territorial Commission to the island of Lampedusa and orders the detention on the island itself of the migrants who arrive there. From that moment on both the hearings for asylum seekers and for the expulsion of irregulars migrants will take place on Lampedusa.

The number of migrants and asylum seekers being held in the only available facility, whose normal capacity is 350 beds that in case of emergency can be expanded to 850, rises to 2000. The limit on the length of detention is not respected (According to existing legislature detention beyond 48 hours must be validated by a judge).

January 23 2009 - 4000 residents of the island demonstrate against the opening a new facility: an Identification and Expulsion Centre, thus preventing the transfer of 110 migrants. Dozens of migrants escape from the Centre and join the demonstration. The police prefect Morcone arrives on the island. Police attack the demonstrators. Two young girls and a minor are wounded.

January 24 2009 - Hundreds of migrants pour into the streets of Lampedusa chanting “Freedom, Freedom!”. Island residents - opposed to the transformation of Lampedusa into an Italian version of Alcatrez - applaud the marchers. Prime Minister Berlusconi declares: “As is their custom they left the Centre to have a beer in town; they are free to come and go from the Centre, everything is under control.” When the migrants go back to the Centre the police welcome them with violence.

January 25 2009 - “Lampedusa is not for sale.” Angela Maraventano, Lega Nord senator and Lampedusa’s deputy mayor, has to be escorted out of the town central square by the police. Maroni confirms his decision to keep newly arrived migrants on the island until their repatriation. A meeting between Maroni and Tunisian authorities is announced to program a collective expulsion to Tunisia. The military surrounds the Centre to prevent contact between migrants and island residents and to avert demonstrations in solidarity with their conditions. Arci’s delegation arrives in Lampedusa.

January 26 2009 - 16 North African women continue their hunger strike against the expulsions. The City Council decides to sue the Homeland Minister Maroni for illegal detention. Eight migrants who had hidden in abandoned homes are captured and returned to the Centre by the Carabinieri.

January 27 2009 - General strike by the island residents. Maroni arrives in Tunisia.

report of ARCI’s visits to Lampedusa

Two detention centres are operational on the island of Lampedusa:

1. one, LOREN, is situated in a dismissed military base and houses asylum seekers, women and minors - it is important to underline that the Loren base is not equipped for such a purpose (in occasion of a fire, some migrants had to jump from the second floor and were severely injured because there were no fire escapes in the Loren centre)

2. the other, CONTRADA IMBRIACOLA, is for all other migrants

At present, the juridical status of both centres is unclear, since none of Minister Maroni decrees concerning Lampedusa’s detention centres have yet to be published.

In the framework of Migreurop campaign ‘For a Right to Access in Detention Centres for Migrants’ - after the visit of January the 30th in the CIE of Ponte Galeria Roma and the refusal of the access to the CIE/CARA of via Corelli in Milan - ARCI visited Lampedusa’s centres twice in February 2009:

February 7 2009
- Giusto Catania (GUE), Carmen Cordaro (ARCI) and Hassan Maamri (ARCI) visit the centres. The delegation was allowed to enter just in the first ‘residential section for men’ of both centres (for men) and had to leave it shortly thereafter because of the dramatic situation found there: all detainees asked for juridical protection and complained about the precarious conditions from the point of view of hygiene and health care, while the police reprimanded Carmen Cordaro (lawyer) because she was collecting the history of one of the migrants .

February 13 2009 - A delegation of GUE, Filippo Miraglia, Hassan Maamri, Carmen Cordaro (ARCI) and the lawyers Carla Trommino and Alessandra Palatino returned to Lampedusa. The first visit took place at 8.00 am when one of the detainee called us to inform us that a revolt was going on.

Only the MP and Hassan Maamri were allowed to enter in the more internal ‘cage’ of the centres while the rest of the delegation waited in a closed room.

There were plenty policemen, interpreters for the police and antiriot gear in the centres. Therefore the migrants refused to talk to the delegation. A private colloquium took place between the MP, Hassan Maamri and 6 representative of the detainees that explained the reasons of the revolts: the migrants refused to sign the notification of the detention and climbed on the roof of their blocks (one of the detainees gave us a video of the protest).

A second access to the centres is scheduled for this afternoon.

In the meantime the GUE delegation and ARCI met the organisations of Praesidium: IOM, UNHCR, Italia Red Cross and Save the Children, the only one allowed to access the centre at present.

All the organisations underlined that even before the opening of the new centres the management of the centre was difficult, but that today with both centres overcrowded no minimum standard can be enforced.

IOM, UNHCR and Save the Children representatives said that they are now denied to access the more internal blocks, while the Italian Red Cross said that the operators themselves decided not to enter for security reason because the tension there is to high.

The Red Cross declared that it is now impossible to carry on the medical triage, that diseases are spreading among migrants because of bad hygiene in the centres. It has become difficult just to reach the infirmary. Moreover the transferral of detainees that needs more accurate medical investigation is not allowed.

The 85% of the women that arrive to Lampedusa are pregnant and victims of rape. The Italian Red Cross denounced the impossibility for them to abort because by the time their transfer to other centres is disposed, the legal limit to abort is usually passed.

Save the Children stated that since 24 January 2009 the living standard are reset to zero: women and children have been sleeping outdoor. A disinfestations is necessary and compulsory, according to the centre’s rules. Nonetheless in the span of one year no disinfestations have been possible since the centre has always been full (minimum 600 detainees).

With regards to minors, they used to be detained in the island for a maximum of 8 days, now the duration of their detention is 35 days. Their age is assessed only through X-ray and the technician in charge of the assessment never mentions in the certificate the possibility of an error of 2 years. Thus no further investigation is ever possible. Save the Children can only try to ask countries of origin for a copy of a document attesting that the detainee is minor. In case they manage to receive it, the minor is transferred to other centres.

All organisations of Praesidium are now allowed to assist the arrivals.

The UNHCR representative gave some data: 75% of the migrants that arrive in Lampedusa ask for asylum. 50% of the demands are accepted. Lampedusa is the door for asylum.

IOM denounced severe problems in the access to juridical defence. In case of appeal against repatriation, the competent forum is the Administrative tribunal (TAR) of Palermo that declares its incompetency, affirming that the competent forum is the justice of the peace of Agrigento that also declare its incompetency in 9 cases out of 10. Thus, it is necessary to sue to establish which tribunal is competent. The court of appeal has to decide. In the meantime, migrants are repatriated without any right to appeal.

Moreover the legal period of time between the notification and validation of the detention and the decree of repatriation is respected, but no court appointed lawyer bothers to check how long migrants have been detained without notification and validation of the detention, thus out of any juridical control.

Between 29 December and 22 January no migrant has been transferred to other centres, thus the number of detainees has reached 1800 people.

On January 14 2009 the Territorial Commission for asylum seekers of Trapani has been moved to the island. The Commision left Lampedusa on January 22. From January 14 to January 22, 75 asylum seekers were heard by the Commission. As of January 22, 270 asylum seekers were moved to centres for asylum seekers elsewhere in Italy, the others have been brought to the Contrada Imbriacola centre.

130 migrants (from Palestine, Eritrea, Algeria) were moved before January 21 to other centres from the Loren centre.

Today there are 13 asylum seekers, all from Nigeria and Tunisia, in the Loren centre and 34 asylum seekers (all Tunisian) in the Contrada Imbriacola centre where the total number of detainee is 900.

All Praesidium organisation are afraid that the number of detainees will reach soon the peak registred in December-January.

In occasion of a meeting between the ARCI and GUE delegations, local authorities, the police and the administrator of the centres, ARCI asked the opening of the centres not only to civil society organizations committed with the tutelage of migrants rights, but also to the local population. It is unbearable that, in such a small island, no inhabitant of Lampedusa have ever had any contact with the detained migrants.

Local population is still definitely against the new Identification and Expulsion Centre.

The Mayor of Lampedusa finally denounced the Minister of Interiors for kidnapping and for the fire that started in the Loren centre. The District Attorney Office has started an investigation. The associations are taking into account the possibility of collaborating with the Mayor.

In the meantime a club of ARCI is being constituted in Lampedusa. Its mission will be to carry on cultural activities that should start with a Human Rights Day to be promoted with Amnesty International. The Mayor of Lampedusa expressed today his agreement to let local ARCI members enter the ancient centre (only that one, since the munipality is still fighting against the permanence in Lampedusa of the Identification and Expulsion centre) on behalf of the municipality in order to monitor the situation, denounce human rights violations and provide legal tutelage to migrants.