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Migrants who sewed mouths shut in protest to be deported

Prisoners' rights guarantor blasts treatment

14 February, 16:23
Migrants who sewed mouths shut in protest to be deported (ANSA) - Rome, February 14 - Fifteen North African migrants who last December sewed their mouths closed to protest treatment in a migrant holding centre near Rome are to be deported, a prisoner rights watchdog for the region of Lazio said Friday.

The fifteen prisoners hit headlines when they sewed their mouths shut with needle and thread at the Ponte Galeria Centre for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) before Christmas.

The first four already have been flown back.

"Everyone made promises, but in the end, everyone forgot about them," said the Lazio Prisoner Rights Guarantor.

"They are forced into a terrible game of snakes and ladders. They emigrated from their lands passing through Libya and ending first at Lampedusa, then in Ponte Galeria.

"Now they go home without ever committing a crime.

Expelled because they are considered undesirable on Italian territory," the rights supervisory body wrote. In late January, the number of migrants participating in a hunger strike at the Rome holding center grew to 26, with 13 Moroccans also sewing their mouths shut - some of them the same prisoners to do so in December - in protest against conditions there.

Protests were mounted in December after authorities emptied a controversial holding facility on the island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, which was at the centre of an international furore when a video was broadcast showing naked migrants being sprayed with disinfectants outside in the cold of winter.