Update: MSF accused of 'disloyalty' over CPT report
01 June 2004
A new chapter was added to the ongoing saga between the Italian government and the humanitarian doctor's association Medici Senza Frontiere (MSF), whose staff were denied access, first to detention centres, and then to centres for the reception and identication of asylum seekers, after the publication of a damning report on conditions in Italian CPTs (detention centres for migrants), when a minister accused the association of "disloyalty". On 16 June 2004, the minister for relations between the government and parliament, Carlo Giovanardi, replied to a parliamentary question by Rifondazione Comunista MP Giovanni Russo Spena about the exclusion of the humanitarian doctors' association MSF from the centres for the identification of asylum seekers in Borgo Mezzanone and Otranto, by suggesting that MSF had been "disloyal" in its relations with the government by sending its report on detention centres and centres for the identification of asylum seekers to the press. Giovanardi, from the Unione Centro Democratico (UCD, Union of the Democratic Centre, which is part of Berlusconi's government coalition), also stressed that the cooperation between the government and MSF was limited to the outbreak of a SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic. He also indicated that until there is a new regulation, the centres for asylum seekers will be subject to the same regulations as CPTs, detention centres for migrants against whom an expulsion order has been issued.
Russo Spena replied that the minister's answer confirms the suspicion that "MSF was denied access because it reported a series of shortcomings, with accuracy and a wealth of data". The head of the Italian section of MSF, Loris De Filippis, stressed that Giovanardi has confirmed MSF's fears that the centres for identifying asylum seekers would be subject to regulations that are applicable "exclusively to CPTs". However, he argues that "what surprises us the most, are the claims by the minister, which have absolutely no relation with the truth, that MSF was given authorisation to enter the CPTs for a collaboration related to the SARS epidemic, and that our organisation divulged the contents of our report to the press before informing the competent authorities about it. Both claims are false: the authorisations issued to MSF to draft the report on CPTs… clearly indicate that the scope of the report was to highlight possible shortcomings and problems in the management of the centres, without any reference to the SARS epidemic." De Filippis added that MSF presented its findings to two interior ministry officials in the week prior to the divulgation of the report to the media on 26 January 2004.
MSF published its comprehensive report in January 2004; it was denied access to a centre for the identification and reception of migrants in Lampedusa and to CPTs in April 2004, and to the identification and reception centres for asylum seekers in Borgo Mezzanone and Otranto (both in the region of Apulia) in May 2004. Efforts by the Italian authorities to enforce a regime of secrecy with regards to conditions in Italy's detention centres have included a ruling on 5 May 2004 that found journalist Fabrizio Gatti guilty of making a false declaration of identity to police in Lodi (Lombardy) in January 2000. Gatti falsely identified himself as a Romanian in order to enter the CPT in Via Corelli (Milan) and write a report for his newspaper (Corriere della Sera) on conditions therein.
1. Il manifesto, 17.6.2004, Melting Pot, 17.6.2004, available on: http://www.meltingpot.org/articolo3023.html
2. Statewatch translation of MSF press statement, 27.5.2004, which is available in Italian on: http://www.msf.it/msfinforma/comunicati_stampa/26052004.shtml
3. Full-text of MSF report on conditions in Italy's CPTs, January 2004, in Italian (pdf)