Conversation with Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, Professor of Rights of Asylum and the Constitutional State of Foreigners, about the centre in Pozzallo, where migrants are denied all rights.

Inside the CSPA (Centro di Soccorso e Prima Accoglienza- First Reception Centre) in Pozzallo, the migrants are given no rights. Illegally held in an inadequate structure, often they rebel and they are right to do so. This August, several cases of violence drew attention to this small town in the Province of Ragusa, where boats of migrants arrive regularly. “It is at least six months that I have been writing in order to draw attention to the situation in the CPSA in Pozzallo, ” says Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, Professor of Rights of Asylum and the Constitutional State of Foreigners (Faculty of Law, University of Palermo).

“The most startling fact occurred two days ago when Tunisian citizens who had been in Lampedusa and were in the process of being deported back to Tunisia, were brought to Pozzallo. Fifty people remained blocked at the airport and the same number at the port. We then learnt that some of them were brought to Pozzallo and the rest returned to Lampedusa. Therefore, both CSPAs de facto are being used as centres where migrants are stopped for an indefinite period of time without any of the guarantees with which they should be provided by law,” continued the Professor.
There have been cases of violence and arrests. Some lawyers are trying to work on these cases, but they are having many difficulties. “What really makes you think,” says Vassallo, ” is that there is no way to contest the accusations. This is a problem because in this way judicial protection cannot be exercised; the right to a defence is no longer valid because there are no formal measures for detaining people in such conditions. Therefore, there is no confirmation of the judge, in reality there is nothing.”

Vassallo is quite clear about the situation at Pozzallo, “It’s basically in a hangar. A gigantic shed in the industrial zone of the port of Pozzallo. There is nothing about it which can adequately cater for the stay of people for more than 48-96 hours. When in reality, people are staying in that centre for up to a month -without a doubt more than three weeks and are then transferred to CIEs (Centro di identificazione ed espulsione: Immigration Detention Centre(s)). Centres such as the one at Pozzallo have come about through administrative detention being extended to 18 months, almost as if the CIEs had been closed. There is, therefore, a need to use informal structures which are close to the border in order to hold the immigrants who previously would have been sent to CIEs. The reasons they would have been sent to a CIE could be because they didn’t present an application for asylum; they could be economic migrants; or, because they are Tunisian- even though there are also Tunisian citizens who are capable of going through the process of applying for asylum. Yet places like Pozzallo and the Barone barracks in Pantelleria are both places where the boats arrive and therefore points of first reception, which instead become used as structures of detention in as much as the message which is sent out is that Italy directly carries out deportations without even allowing entry into its territory. This idea is further rendered by the fact that despite being in Italy, it is as if Italian and European laws and norms are not in force. As far as the application of rules and rights, as outlined by our regulations for irregular migrants, is concerned, they are like off shore sites. And this goes for European regulations too, such as the Schengen Code (2006) which stipulates a series of formalities and guarantees which cover incidents such as refusal of entry at borders,” concludes Vassallo Paleologo.
Alessandro Grandi

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