By Alarm Phone Tunis and Alarm Phone Palermo
With 2,308 Tunisian nationals deported from Italy in 2022 (1,872 in 2021), representing 59% of the total number of deportees, followed by Albania and Egypt, with 518 and 329 people respectively, Tunisians arriving in Italy are confronted with a violation of their most basic right, international protection.
In 2011, a bilateral agreement was signed between Tunisia and Italy designed to carry out mass expulsions of Tunisian nationals arriving by boat on Italian shores. Like the majority of agreements signed between Tunisia and the European Union and its member states, this agreement gives unequal and inequitable access to the right of freedom of movement. Another agreement was signed in 2020, which would allow Italy to expel almost twice the number of Tunisians, i.e. 80 people a week.
After the coup d’état of July 25, 2021, the political situation in Tunisia is increasingly dangerous and worsening by the day. Arrests and ongoing repression of political opponents, activists, trade unionists and journalists, ever-intensifying police violence and the criminalization of the LGBTQ++ community facing systematic and daily violence makes Tunisia an unsafe country of origin.
Tunisian nationals arriving by boat to Italy are all stigmatized and as soon as they arrive, they are sorted in big groups solely based on their nationality without any assessment of their individual case throughout their “stay” in Italy. They receive no or partial information about their rights in Italy, as well as the reason for their detention and the outcome of their case. Tunisian migrants do not benefit from an appropriate and neutral translation, knowing that most of them do not speak Italian and that the only people they can speak with are translators.
Demonstration for Wissem Ben Abdellatif, Photo: Silvia Di Meo
Marwan* a young Tunisian man who was recently deported from Italy after spending one and a half months in the Trapani Detention Center, emphasized the fact that during the time he spent in the CPR of Trapani and Center of Pantelleria he never received any valuable information.
Concerning the conditions inside the center and the treatment they face by officers working there, Marwan said that when he first entered Trapani center he felt like he was entering a prison.
According to a study conducted by ASGI, FTDES and ASF, in 202188.2% were victims of abuse within the CPR, and in the majority of cases (82.3%), this abuse was caused by CPR staff. People in the repatriation centers and mainly Tunisians face verbal and physical abuse in case they don’t want to sign papers or give their fingerprints.
Such was the case of Wissem Ben Abdellatif, one of the few documented cases, who lost his life in Rome’s San Camillo hospital after being transferred from the Repatriation Center of Rome. His death from a heart attack may have been caused by the use of restraint measures during his hospitalization. The same study showed that 32% of the people interviewed said they had been denied access to a doctor.
Marwan remembers once how a man fainted and was shaking on the floor in front of the police and that it took them 15 minutes to react to see if he was really fainting or pretending, just to leave the center.
Although Marwan had a different experience as he did not need a medical transfer, he nevertheless said that on a daily basis, the doctor of the CPR gave them anti-anxiolytic and anti-stress pills without a prescription or a proper medical check.
Marwan perceived the journey and the deportation as a violence and an unjust act that he still cannot process and understand.
These repatriation centers – in which those detained face violence is a daily experience, have no access to basic rights as migrants who have recently arrived in Italy, and go through opaque procedures while often given wrong information given by translators – can only result in severe psychological distress. Those, such as Tunisians, fleeing unstable social, economic and political situations and unsafety, face circumstances in which their right to international protection is not even guaranteed once in Italy.
Article published in Echoes#8 – Struggles for Freedom of Movement