Article first published on December 10, 2021
Press release – On 28 November 2021, Wissem Ben Abdellatif, a 26-year-old Tunisian man from Kebili, died at the San Camillo hospital in Rome after being transferred from the Ponte Galeria Return Stay Centre (CPR) in Rome. The heart attack that caused his death may have been the result of detainment measures during his admission.
An investigation was launched by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rome and an autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death.
Wissem arrived in Sicily at the beginning of October after an isolation period on a quarantine ship in Augusta. He was transferred to the CPR* for the pre-repatriation phase and was considered suitable for life in detention.
Concerns about Wissem’s psychological condition were noted by the center’s authorities which led to his first hospitalization on 23 November 2021 in the Grassi hospital in Ostia and subsequently to the psychiatric ward of the San Camillo hospital in Rome.
On 28 November, Wissem died of a cardiac arrest while being in the hospital. But his parents claimed that their son was “a sportsman and did not have any physical or mental problems”.
Alessandro Capriccioli, regional councilor of Lazio, and Stefano Anastasia, guardian of those who are deprived of their liberty in the Lazio region, carried out an inspection at the CPR on 4 December, where they were able to consult Wissem’s medical file and observe the detention measures used during his recovery.
It remains to be clarified whether Wissem’s mental suffering existed prior to his detention or rather developed during it. Moreover, Mauro Palma, president of the Authority for the Rights of Prisoners and People deprived of their Liberty, told the Italian press that “the blood tests were regular, there did not seem to be any health problems” .
Wissem is a striking example of the rapid and standardized practices conducted against Tunisian nationals in Italy. Implemented through bilateral agreements and financial arrangements between the two countries, to the disinterest of the Tunisian population and their fundamental right to access international protection.
The disturbing reports of his death are accompanied by the continuous and suffocating complaints of people who have passed through these repatriation centers and describe intolerable conditions.
The whole system of administrative detention of migrants in Italy, which mainly affects Tunisians, must be dismantled and the whole legislative framework on migration must be completely rethought.
The organizations that signed express their unconditional support for the family of the deceased and encourage:
- The Italian authorities to remove any vagueness about the circumstances surrounding the death of Wissem Ben Abdellatif, to ensure access to the justice system for his family.
- The Tunisian state to reveal the truth about Wissem’s death, and to support his family in seeking justice. Furthermore, to review the bilateral agreements between Tunisia and Italy, which conflict with the fundamental right to asylum granted by the international conventions ratified by the two countries.
List of organizations that have signed:
- ASF – Avocats Sans Frontières
- LTDH – La ligue tunisienne pour la défense des Droits de l’Homme
- Associazione BEITY
- ADLI – Association tunisienne de défense des libertés individuelles
- ActionAid Italia
- EuroMed Droits
- FTDES – Forum Tunisien pour les Droits Économiques et Sociaux
- Associazione ASGI – Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione
- Watch The Med – Alarm Phone
- Naga ODV
- Collettivo Pensare Migrante
- Mai più lager – NO ai CPR
- IADH – Institut Arabe des Droits de l’Homme
- MDM – Médecins du monde, mission Tunisie
- Associazione Optì Pobà
- Cledu – Clinica legale per i diritti umani dell’Università di Palermo
- ARCI – Associazione ricreativa e culturale italiana
- Borderline Sicilia Onlus
- A Buon Diritto Onlus
- CILD – Coalizione Italiana per le Libertà e i Diritti civili
- Campagna LasciateCIEntrare
List of signatories:
- Féthi JARRAY, president INPT
- Lotfi Ezzedine, member INPT
- Sana ben Achour, Association Beity
- Majdi Karbai, Tunisian deputy in Italy
*CPR: Centro di permanenza per i rimparti – Repatriation Center
Translated from Italian by Clara-Marie Pache