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Aidan White

immigration_centrePublished: 1 February 2012

Region: Italy

By Aidan White

A major breakthrough for journalists trying to report on the rights of migrants and asylum seekers in Italy has been achieved with the lifting of an official ban on reporters visiting holding centres and refugee camps.

 

This important victory opens the possibility for journalists to verify reports of appalling and inhuman conditions in which migrants and refugees are being detained.

The cancellation of the bar on media people came after a campaign launched by the group LasciateCIEntrare (Let us in) and supported by the Italian journalists’ union, the Federazione della Stampa Italiana. They demanded that reporters must be allowed to visit official Identification and Expulsion Centres (CIE) for immigrants and similar Centres for Asylum Seekers (CARA).

Now that this right has been won campaigners are anxious that journalists take their chance to investigate just how people are treated in these holding centres, where reports of bad treatment have followed visits by members of the Italian parliament and the European Union. Visitors have said inmates have to put up with mouldy bedding, filthy bathrooms and overcrowded cells in facilities that cost taxpayers millions of Euros.

The group LasciateCIEntrare says these so-called reception centres are little more than maximum security prisons, even though they are not part of the criminal justice system. The detainees are immigrants found without their residence permit or asylum seekers.

"At the Immigrant detention centre in Trapani there is no water in the toilets, the showers are cold, and the dorms are overcrowded. Under these conditions it is very difficult to protect human dignity", said Cecilia Wikstrom, a member of the European Parliament after visiting a Trapani centre in November.

Stories of a teenager locked up in Bologna by mistake and a woman detained in the same centre after condemning the violence of her boyfriend have raised public concern. Now LasciateCIEntrare is launching a new campaign to help journalists get a deeper understanding of the problems. A first briefing session for journalists was held at the union headquarters in Rome on January 30th. More details from http://www.fnsi.it/FNSI_international/


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