“Beaten with electric truncheons”

Parliamentary question by Ms Spinelli, Member of the European Parliament

Meridionews – Salvo Catalano May 13 2015

Last April Meridionews reported the stories of a group of Syrian and Palestinian nationals who denounced of having been beaten by the police with electric truncheons in a CSPA, a first reception centre of the Italian authorities. Today some MEPs demand an explanation to the European Commission. And a multilingual leaflet, allegedly given by the police to the migrants, appears.

On April 24 Meridionews had reported the denouncement of a group of Syrian and Palestinian migrants, who had been locked for days in the center of first aid and reception in Pozzallo. They did not intend to allow for the recording of their fingerprints since their plan was not that of staying in Italy but abroad. To convince them the police has allegedly used violence against them. This story in now under the lenses of the European Commission. The MEP Barbara Spinelli, elected within the list Tispras and only yesterday passed to the European united Left-Nordic Green Left group, presented a parliamentary question signed by her colleagues Elly Schlein, Laura Ferrara, Ignazio Corrao, Eleonora Forenza and Curzio Maltese.

The MEPs demand an explanation in reference to the violence against a number of asylum seekers in the centres of first accommodation both in Lampedusa and Pozzallo (CPAs). “With special reference to the centre in Pozzallo – says the questioning – different but concurring sources report the illegitimate use of violence to force the migrants, also minors, to the identification through fingerprints sampling, in violation of the safeguards foreseen by the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the rights of the child. Several foreign citizens, also minors, have declared to have been beaten with electric truncheons.”

On April 20 113 migrants, almost entirely from Syria and Palestine, were rescued in the Mediterranean by a vessel with Turkish flag state and arrived at the centre in Pozzallo.

They remained in the facility for days and refused to be identified. They also organized a hunger strike. Providing their fingerprint to the Italian authorities would mean for them to begin their application for international protection in Italy, since the Dublin regulation impels that the international protection is granted by the Member State of first arrival. On April 24 the Moroccan activist Nawal Soufi, for years involved in sheltering of migrants in southeast Sicily and specifically in Catania, arrives to the CPA*. She manages to pass through the first fence and to get closer to centre. From the inside screaming in Arabic language and voices of children can be heard. “They beat us with electricity” is the complaint that Soufi records on a video. The translation is confirmed by other interpreters who also visioned the videos.

The activist´s visit generate further confusion in the centre and a group of migrants manages to get out. Before leaving by taxi, they halt and speak with Soufi and with the few journalists who are inside the structure, among them an American troupe of Al Jazeera. They reaffirm what they have already screamed inside the centre, that they had been beaten, also with electric truncheons.

They also show a leaflet – which Meridionews is now in the position of publishing – where in different languages you can read: “ Migrants entering the Italian territory illegally, even if rescued at sea, must be identified through the acquisition of their personal details, pictures and digital fingerprints. This will be implemented by the police and consist in the acquisition of the profile photos and the fingerprints”. The leaflet ends with the most contested sentence: “ However the police will proceed with the acquisition of the photos and the fingerprints, even with the use of force if necessary”.

The leaflet have been delivered by some migrants who left the CPA: it is written on unstamped paper, without any stamping and heading. According to the migrants it was the police that circulated it in the centre.

Translation: Marco Baldan

*CPA – centre of first accommodation