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Written by the Migrants Infopoint of LOA Acrobax

In Europe there are places that are closed, controlled, hidden and invisible where a migrant can be taken by the police authorities if found without visa or documents in one of the EU countries.
Since 1998 the Italian immigration law Turco-Napolitano stated the building of Short Term Holding Facilities (also known as Migration Detention Centres - Centri di Permanenza Temporanea in italian). In these centres are held in custody all migrants found not in line with the currant immigration laws in Italy. This law is the Bossi-Fini, which completes the pervious one, giving more importance and power to these Migration Detention Centres. Migrants are detained in these places without having committed any crime but have only done what is in their right: to go away from their country where they didn't or couldn't live any more.

A migrant who has just arrived in the country, or has been here for years but is waiting for the visa to be renewed, or can't get a visa renew can end up in one of these places. Also migrants who are believed to be dangerous for the public safety can be detained in these Short Term Holding Facilities.

In Italy there are 16 Short Term Holding Facilities, but the government has announced that it will build more of these centres, and also new types, ones for asylum seekers only. In 2003 only at least 17.000 people passed through these centres.

On the 8th of January 2003 the Town Council of Turin voted unanimously to the creation of "Experimental Protected Community Structures ". These structures should be designed to lodge foreign minors in a "state of abandon and exploitation". What they really are is the first type of Short Term Holding Facilities for people under 14 years of age, without other members of the family with them and responsible of some minor crimes and begging. In these cases the deportation would take time, this is why they have created yet another structure. The minor is held for 60 days and in this time he is identified and provided with the documents that are needed to be sent bake to his home country. If the authorities can get in contact with family members then he is sent directly back to the family, otherwise it is the embassy that takes on the case. At the moment the are mostly Rumanian and Moroccan kids. With the Rumanian embassy there is an agreement so that the minor gets directly deported without getting an individual identification.

In the Short Term Holding Facilities migrants are held until they are deported, by being accompanied by the police to the border. The migrant can appeal against this expulsion within 60 days, but he must, no matter what, leave the country within 5 days. The reasons why many immigrants are detained before the expulsion are:

  • Necessity to give first aid medical cure to the foreigner
  • Necessity to check the identity and nationality
  • Necessity to gain all the documents for travelling back home
  • Not having ones own means of transport adequate to return to ones own country

Until the expulsion has not been done the migrant carries on being held in the Short Term Holding Facilities, even though you can't be kept foe more than 30 days, that can be extended to another 30 and after that they must be released. The maxim stay can not be more than 60 days at any one time. The migrant must be released with the order to leave the country within 5 days. It is against the law if after 60 days the person is still being held in custody. No migrant can be deported from the country without being identified and that his nationality has been asserted.

The person who has been ordered to leave the country within 5 days and hasn't done it if stopped by the police can be taken in custody again. Having already been in a Short Term Holding Facilities doesn't mean that you can't return.

Today anyone stopped by police and hasn't got a visa or the necessary documents can be taken to a Short Term Holding Facilities.
Your stay has always to be confirmed be a judge within 48 hours.

Being detained in a Short Term Holding Facilities you do have some minimal rights:

  • information about laws regarding immigration and asylum ,must and rights of immigrants, information about asylum
  • right to be defended by a lawyer for free (paid by the State)
  • presence of a interpreter and a cultural mediator
  • health assistance ( it must be guaranteed a hospital inside the MDC, transfer to an hospital outside, distribution of ordinary medicine, compilation of personal health forms )
  • social and psychological assistance
  • profusion of personal goods
  • right to meet people from outside
  • right to receive letters from outside
  • food service
  • hygienic environment, barber, laundry
  • maintenance of facilities
  • safe keeping of personal

Knowledge of these rights is important for all immigrants, because very often they aren't guaranteed.
Doctors and politicians that had visited some MDC charged the forced administration of psycho-medicine to most of the people detained.

The immigrant that has been expelled can't return to any of the countries in the Shengen area for 10 years.
Shengen area include the following countries: Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany Belgium Holland, Luxembourg,, Greece, Denmark ,Finland, Sweden, Island and Norway.

The migrant that has presented a request for asylum shouldn't be detained in the MDC. All the information's concerning the foreigner's legal procedures mustn't be communicated to their diplomatic representatives, even though this happens more and more often. Ambassadors and consoles of the countries of origin of the asylum seekers are not allowed to get in the MDC to identify people.

The Bossi-Fini law establishes that to require for asylum you have to go to a specific centre called Identification centres for asylum seekers. If someone asks for asylum after a expulsion procedure he will be held in a MDC until the result of his request. In the other cases the people have to go through the Identification Centres for Asylum Seekers.

These centres are optional measures for:

  • verifying the identity and nationality of who is asking for asylum
  • verifying the elements on which the request for asylum is based on
  • while waiting for the procedures to finish the migrant is recognised as a refugee

For those asylum seekers who have already dodged the border controls or is an illegal immigrant these measures are obligatory and they also have to be detained in an Identification centre.

This means that soon all asylum seekers will be held in these new centres. In any case the asylum seekers who leave these structures without authorisation will loose any right to obtain asylum. In the case that the request has been tuned down they have a right to ask to examine the case again within 5 days. If the response is negative they can go to court within 15 days but from their country because they will be deported immediately.

Now the Identification centres for asylum seekers have not yet been created.

A constitutional verdict, about forcing people back across the border, sentences that before doing this the police have to inform a judge after 48 hours of detention, the judge has to confirm the deportation within the following 48 hours. This means that the maxim amount of time that you can be held without seeing a judge is 4 days.

In Rome the MDC is at Ponte Galleria which in on Via Portuense (south-west area of the city) and it is active since the 5th of August 1998. This structure can hold up to 300 people. There are no separate areas for families, which means members of the same family can only see each other during the day and sleep in divided dormitories (male or female) at night.

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