Italian deportation centers use sedatives to control detained migrants

Before being expelled from Italian territory, migrants who are on Italian soil go through a period of administrative detention in pre-removal detention centres (CPR), where they are drugged and “sedated” using psychoactive agents.

An investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Potenza, southern Italy, revealed the living conditions of detainees in the “Palazzo San Gervasio” CPR, and revealed that detainees were forced to take medications to illegally control “public order” in the facility, in addition to the use of violence and not providing health, linguistic and legal services.

The investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the region recorded 35 cases of ill-treatment against detainees in the CPR between 2018 (the year the center opened) until 2022, adding the administration’s responsibility for “ill-treatment” and forcing detainees to take sedatives… without a medical reason and without their knowledge or consent.”

The judiciary confirmed that “the use of medicines was independent of the patient’s will, but consistent with the need to control public order illegally,” according to the “InfoMigrants” website.

The investigation found that “1,315 packages of Ritrovil drops and tablets were prescribed” to detained foreigners between January and December, and “920 packages” were delivered between January 2019 and August 2019.

A video broadcast by Chanel 5 in January 2023, shows a migrant sitting on a hospital bed, surrounded by a number of police officers, and one of the officers pressures the man to take the medication, saying, “Take it, I will not say that twice. Take it and I will let you go.” “If you don’t take it, I will stay here.” Finally, the man drank the medicine. The prosecutor commented, “people who caused problems were treated like monkeys.”

Medications to treat anxiety, depression, and even epilepsy cause strong symptoms, and “continuous forced sedation,” according to the judge, is “an assault on human dignity and a violation of freedom,” and it also constitutes a “real danger” as it leads to addiction.

The investigation concluded that the company responsible for managing the CPR, “Engel,” pledged to provide health, linguistic, and legal services, but it did not implement this, or at least not adequately. Furthermore, the clinic in the building did not have running water and did not have medical equipment necessary for certain consultations, such as an EKG for example.

Many cases of physical violence were recorded in the CPR, and another witness said that the living conditions in the CPR led to the emergence of “obsessive behavior” among some, such as walking in circles.

The investigation followed about 30 individuals, and charges were brought against about ten police officers, doctors, and CPR administrators. One of the policemen was placed under house arrest, and the CPR director was suspended for 12 months, as was one of the doctors. The prosecutor stated that the state’s credibility was at stake “in that CPR.”

An investigation conducted in December 2023 also revealed that living conditions in the Corelli detention center in Milan were also difficult.

The prosecutor criticized the “seriously flawed” health system, as detainees suffering from psychological problems or serious illnesses, such as brain tumors or epilepsy, were never subjected to medical examinations.

Despite the conditions of these centers, the Italian government plans to establish additional CPRs in 20 regions of the country (there are currently 10 CPRs with a capacity of up to 1,500 people). Beginning in May 2023, the Italian government published the text of the Croto Decree, which aimed to reduce the number of immigrants arriving in Italy.

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