12 October 2021
The Association for Immigration Law Studies (ASGI) has published a study of Turin's Pre-Removal Detention Centre, the second-largest such centre in Italy. The 'Black Book' was written following the death in solitary confinement of 22-year old Moussa Balde in May. It examines the centre's inhumane conditions and the rights violations to which its "guests" (a euphemism used by the Italian state for detainees) are subjected.
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For background on the death of Moussa Baldi, see: Italy: Death in detention centre, hunger strike and demonstration in response (24 May 2021)
In Italy, the police can detain an undocumented migrant for up to 120 days, regardless of any criminal record. This deprivation of liberty – and of means of communication – is ordered by the Head of Police (Questore), and implemented on the simple validation of an honorary (lay) judge, the Justice of the Peace (Giudice di Pace). The appeal procedure is reserved to the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di cassazione), and takes an average of 12 months.
Detention occurs when an undocumented migrant cannot be immediately returned to their country of origin or provenience. Other measures provided for by the law, such as: the issuance of a passport; the obligation to reside in a previously identified place; and/or to report to the police at fixed days and times, are rarely used.
Italy currently has thirteen detention facilities: nine Pre-Removal Detention Centres (CPR), as well as four Hotspots in the south of the country, located near the Mediterranean. More than 700 people in total can be held in these locations.
The present document describes the living conditions of detainees inside the second largest CPR in Italy, located in Turin. The information were gathered by the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (ASGI), which provides legal assistance to migrants to ensure that fundamental rights are respected.
This black book was produced following the suicide of Moussa Balde, a 22-year-old boy who was attacked on 9 May 2021 in the streets of Ventimiglia by three unknown men. After being briefly hospitalized, the young man was taken to the Head of Police of Imperia, which ordered his confinement at the CPR of Turin in order to deport him. At the CPR he was placed in solitary confinement and was found dead on 23 May 2021.
An investigation into these events, the living conditions and medical support in the Turin’s CPR from the Turin’s Prosecutor Office is currently ongoing.
Moussa Balde, 1998–2021
Moussa Balde did not die in an ordinary place. Waiting for him and accompanying him at the end of his life was the darkness of an isolation cell, which concealed his last steps from the rest of the world.
“I want to stay in Italy because in this country I could taste how beautiful life can be.”
- Moussa Balde
In the surreal language of the Turin’s Pre-Removal Detention Centre (CPR), the 12 henhouse-like cages used for isolating detainees become the "Ospedaletto” (“Little Hospital"), which, according to the authorities, is made available to the "guests" (euphemism used to indicate detainees) in order to protect their dignity and privacy. The cells of which this building is made of are bare and never illuminated by the sun in the inside; sanitation is very poor and the furniture consists of a chair and a table fixed to the floor and concrete everywhere. The cell door leads into a courtyard of a few square metres, fenced in by railings and enclosed by a canopy. The view of the sky is only partial. Here, in the Brunelleschi centre, people walk on the edge of a gorge.
According to two reports by the National Guarantor of the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of Liberty:
"The sector consists of a single building divided into 12 sleeping rooms that are also separated in the external area by high railings. The individual rooms are accessed through a small courtyard dominated by high closed iron gates."
"Such a perimeter of the area in front of the room entrance has the effect of transforming the courtyard into a metal cage that violates the dignity of the people living there.
The so-called "Ospedaletto" has no common areas: the individual accommodations are characterised by a small space in front of the room with an overall effect similar to that of an old sections of a zoo."
Two years ago, Hossain Faisal, a Bengali citizen, died in this “zoo”. Since his arrival at the CPR, on 16 February 2019, he was placed in solitary confinement; the certificate of suitability for detention drawn up by the internal doctor states that "he is compatible with detention at the CPR "Brunelleschi" sub iudice (confused and disoriented patient) we will keep him under observation for a few days and then we will decide whether to keep him or declare him unfit to live in this centre".
Two days later 'the guest appears confused, not very present, refuses any kind of dialogue, always repeating the same confused words'. During the other two interviews with the psychologist, on 4 March and 6 May, Hossain remained silent, did not respond to offers of clothes and slippers (in his medical file it is noted that the man walks barefoot) and only asked for a cigarette. The psychologist observed that "the fact that he did not speak Italian made the possibility of a dialogue even more difficult".
On 8 July 2019, Hossain died in the same cell No. 10 in which he had been kept for almost five months. The autopsy report mentioned sudden cardiac death, probably due to arrhythmia. For some time he had not even slept in the room, but on the floor of the tiny courtyard in front of it.
Read the full report: Fleeing misery, seeking refuge in Italy, being destroyed by the state: when Europe denies the human - The Black book on the Pre-Removal Detention Centre (CPR) of migrants in Turin (pdf) by Corso Brunelleschi
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