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MSF denied access to identification centres for asylum seekers
01 June 2004
On 27 May 2004, the Italian branch of the international humanitarian doctors' organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced that its volunteers were denied access to the Identification Centres for asylum seekers in Otranto and Borgo Mezzanone (both in Apulia, southern Italy). The organisation considers this refusal of entry a response to the publication by MSF in January of a critical report on the situation in Italian Centri di Permanenza temporanea (CPTs, detention centres for migrants against whom expulsion orders have been issued) and the Identification Centres for asylum seekers that were established in accordance with the Bossi-Fini reform of the Italian immigration law (see Statewatch news online, February 2004, and Statewatch bulletin vol. 14 no.1).
Following the report, the Italian government allegedly "cut off any communication" with the humanitarian association". MSF is also highly critical of the fact that the denial of access has been motivated using the legislation for CPTs, which should have a different regime and legal basis to Identification Centres, whose purpose "is completely different from the CPTs" as they have been established "to receive and identify foreigners who arrive in Italy escaping wars and persecution, who want to present an asylum application". It considers the assimilation of Identifications to CPTs to be a "worrying precedent". In April, MSF staff were denied entry to the reception centre on the island of Lampedusa, off the coast of Sicily, where they had been providing medical assistance to recently disembarked migrants for over two years. In the press statement that followed MSF's exclusion from access to the centres in Borgo Mezzanone, Giuseppe De Mola, responsible for MSF's activities in southern Italy, stressed that "Until the presentation of the report on CPTs, our requests for access to the centre have always had a positive outcome". Recent efforts to enforce a situation of secrecy over the situation in Italian CPTs have included a ruling on 5 May 2004 that found Corriere della Sera journalist Fabrizio Gatti guilty of making a false declaration of identity to the police in Lodi on 17 January 2000, by passing himself off as a Romanian who was residing illegally in Italy. The offence was motivated by the journalist's intention to enter the CPT in Via Corelli (Milan) to investigate conditions, and the treatment of detained foreigners awaiting expulsion therein (see Statewatch news online, May 2004).
MSF press statement
MSF is denied entry to the identification centre for asylum applicants in Borgo Mezzanone
The police chief considers reception centres equivalent to CPTs (temporary detention centres)
Rome, 27 May 2004 - The Interior ministry, through the Lecce and Foggia (both in the region of Apulia) police headquarters, has refused the volunteers from the international humanitarian association Medici Senza Frontiere (MSF) permission to enter ithe Identification Centres for asylum seekers in Otranto and Borgo Mezzanone.
The refusal comes only a few weeks after the exclusion of the humanitarian association from the Centri di permanenza temporanea (CPT, temporary detention centres for migrants) in Lampedusa, and four months after the presentation of a report in which MSF criticised the deficiencies and violations in the CPTs and Identification Centres for migrants. Since the presentation of the report, the government has cut off all communication with the Nobel Peace Prize-winning association.
Officially, the denial of entry to MSF volunteers into the two Centres is justified on the basis of the provisions in article 21, point 7 of the DPR 394/99 law decree. "This is a very grave fact - explains Loris De Filippi, the head of the MSF mission in Italy - because the legislation that is evoked refers exclusively to CPTs, that is, to the Centres that were established to hold foreigners whose position does not fulfil the legislation on residence in Italy,<