Guest post by Mai più Lager - NO ai CPR. This is the sixth istalment of the themed week on assessing border control practices in Italy. 

 

Addressing for the first time immigration as a structural phenomenon, the Act no. 40/1998 (also known as the “Turco-Napolitano Act”) aimed to provide a unified framework for migration management in Italy. Article 12 of this legislation introduced the Temporary Stay and Assistance Centres (CPTAs), facilities established to detain irregular migrants subject to deportation.

One year later, on 11th January 1999, the detention facility in Milan became operative on Via Corelli n. 28, in the eastern suburbs of the city. While initially using containers of the Red Cross to accommodate detained migrants, the facility was refurbished and reopened in November 2000. The center was managed by the Italian Military Red Cross and had a capacity of 140 people (see here, page 58).

Due to the structure of the building (with small cells, bars at the windows and security gates) as well as being situated in a remote location the center, like the others scattered on the Italian territory, resembled a prison. Lack of interpreters to facilitate the provision of information, hygiene, and access to legal aid, as well as the quality of healthcare provided, were some of the issues that detainees in the center faced on a daily basis. Reportedly, these problems affected the wellbeing of detainees, leading them to suicide attempts, self-injury, riots and hunger strikes

On 12th February 2004, the ‘Observatory of the Via Corelli CPT’ was established, uniting political parties, non-profit associations, Trade Unions and various grassroots groups with the aim of reporting and exposing human rights violations occurring behind closed doors. A key goal of the Observatory was to provide emotional, informative, legal, and material support to the people detained inside the Via Corelli centre, as well as to advocate for closing down all detention centers in the country. Activists also critiqued the restrictive immigration legislation put in place in Italy in 2002 (i.e., Law n. 189/2002, also known as Bossi-Fini law) which, among other things, introduced criminal sanctions for those caught ‘illegally’ crossing the border or those who remained in the state territory after being expelled. Moreoever, this same legislation extended maximum time in detention from 30 to 60 days. 

During 2004 and 2005, numerous riots took place within the Via Corelli CPT, and other detention centers around the country, triggered by inhumane detention practices. Following one of these protests, on the night of 24th May, 2005, twenty-one migrants were arrested. Later, with Decree-Law n. 92/2008 ‘Urgent measures in the matter of public security’ that was later converted into Law (L. 125/2008), detention centers were renamed as ‘Identification and Expulsion Centers’ (CIE). However, this did not come with a change in the structure of the facilities that continued to be the same oppressive sites where violations of rights took place. Architecturally, they also maintained their prison-like aspect, with high surrounding walls and bars at windows. In 2011, the maximum duration of detention was raised from 6 to 18 months (Law Decree n. 89/2011, converted into Law No. 129/2011). In this context, protests against increasingly intolerable detention conditions, including poor healthcare, lack of cultural mediators, legal information and legal aid, as well as obstacles in the right to seek asylum continued unabated.

In November 2013, as a result of a number of riots, the facility in Milan was closed and the migrants were transferred to other Italian CIEs. In October 2014, an agreement was signed to convert the Milan CIE to a reception center for asylum seekers (CAS). Following this positive achievement, the experience of the Observatory also ended. Yet, under the new Decree-Law n. 13/2017 (also known as the “Minniti-Orlando Decree”) converted into Law n. 46 of 13.04.2017, which foresaw the opening of detention centres called Permanence Centers for Repatriations (CPRs) in every Italian region, the Via Corelli centre was scheduled for re-opening.  

In September 2018, the first public meeting of the new movement MAI PIU LAGER - NO AI CPR (NO MORE CONCENTRATION CAMPS- NO CPR) network took place at the Naga Association based in Milan. The main goal of this new network, comprised of political parties, associations and collectives, is to oppose the new repressive immigration law reforms through the organization of demonstrations and the organisation of events and public assemblies to provide critical information on detention and shift public opinion on this topic (and immigration more generally). To this end, the network published a summary of the main points of the new immigration measures approved by the Italian government and held many assemblies on the streets of Milan to explain to people what immigration detention is.  

The first protest in December 2018 had 20.000 people marching to the building that once again was to become a detention center. In January 2019, the network issued a list of its statements, followed by another demonstration the next month. A third protest took place on October 2019 against the Law Decrees introduced by the former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini (see here and here) and the announcement that Milan detention center will soon be re-opened (probably in March 2020).

The new Italian government constituted in September has not so far shown the political will to alter immigration policies of previous administrations. The challenge for the network is to show that despite the pretense of a left-wing government, CPRs will remain places where harmful detention practices are implemented. 

When the CPR re-opens in Milan, ‘Mai più Lager’ will organize sit-ins and flash mobs in front of the building and will seek to establish contacts with the people confined in the centre (mainly by phone). At the same time, we will continue to provide information to the public opinion about abuses and human rights violations that so often happen in sites of confinement.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style) 

Mai più Lager - NO ai CPR. (2020). The Via Corelli Detention Center in Milan: History, Present and Future. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2020/02/corelli-detention [date])