A tribute to the (true) story of Commissario Carlo Parini

The true story of Commissario Carlo Parini, who saved thousands of migrants. His task force was shut down. Why?

DiCristina Giudici

Gen 8, 2019

This week I’d like to dedicate the editorial to a man, an ‘irregular’ in his own way, who all the papers are talking about these days without knowing him. Commissario Carlo Parini, who headed the illegal immigration taskforce (Gruppo interforze di contrasto all’immigrazione clandestina) in Siracusa, Sicily, since 2006. In recent days, his task force, which for years has dealt with thousands of arrivals with bare hands, and with very few resources investigated smugglers, traffickers, and criminal networks which from Sicily to Milan organised the trafficking of human beings, was shut down. Officially, this was because of the lack of new arrivals. In reality, it was due to indolence. The italian Ministry of Home Affairs has chosen not to salvage a unique experience in Italy, one which ought to have been replicated, not cut short. And I hope that the knowledge and experience of this extraordinary investigator will not be lost but enhanced and utilised in some other way as Commissario Parini knows every nook and cranny of the migratory routes and he leads his investigative activity never forgetting that he was welcoming a suffering part of humanity.

I know this man and government official well as I shadowed him for months researching a fictional inquiry about his work, Mare Monstrum, Mare Nostrum, which I wrote in 2015. The first time I met him in the port of Augusta, where thousands of Syrians fleeing the war arrived every day, I was awestruck. He told me: «We’re not arresting anyone tonight. These are just miserable people who probably drove the barge themselves to pay for the trip. I want to put the real criminals in prison, not these miserable people». In the following months and years until 2017, it was he who helped me figure out what happened to migrants after they arrived in our ports. To understand what was behind those stories, that all seemed the same. Carlo Parini is not a smuggler-hunter, as he has been defined in the past few days. He instead has an uncommon sense of humanity, in addition to his sixth-sense. The first time I set foot in his office, I found him beneath a pile of files, images, quotations as well as poems hanging on the walls. And in a corner were black bin bags full of the possessions of those people who didn’t make it across the Sicilian channel or who went missing. A creative and dramatic chaos, which only he could find his way in.  For months, he shared his stories with me. Stories of those who had made it, those who went missing, and those who were shipwrecked. He showed me chilling photos of burned and mutilated bodies that could not be made public. A huge story, only partially captured in my book. One of his colleagues used to call him Mr. Google due to his incredible photographic memory. But he was, or rather is, an old-style investigator, one that you only find in novels. With him, I was able to witness arrests, interviews with migrants, interrogations. And I also witnessed the huge challenge of managing migration with his deep sense of justice. He didn’t just care about the number of smugglers arrested, he also tried to find out who could be saved from the criminal organisations to be subsequently integrated. He was never a bureaucrat but rather an unknown soldier who worked tirelessly in the mobile trench of the Augusta port. Only a few people know that his inquiry into the smuggling of sailing ships, which arrived from Turkey and continue to do so, has helped Europol understand who was behind that silent and very profitable business. A very important inquiry that, with the closure of his taskforce, has now come to an end.

Carlo Parini has been far more than an incredible professional adventure for me. He has been a guide, a travel companion, a friend who with fatherly patience allowed me to enter an unknown universe. Sometimes, jokingly, I’ve referred to him as a gift of destiny. In fact, he has given me a view of the flow of migrants from Lybia that changed my perception of the phenomenon. I’ll never forget the days and the nights I spent in the port of Augusta. And I would really like all those who have been talking about him of late, or after short visits to the port, to really know what lengths he went to in order to do his job well, better, and even better still. A job that, to him, was like a mission. I have recorded all my days spent with the taskforce, even those when, rarely, things were quiet. Then, the Commissario retreated into his thoughts and I was so anxious to understand what was going on, so careful not to disturb the flow of his memories, that I even recorded the sound of the rain beating on the windowpanes in a city usually blinded by light.

I have written this long editorial to pay tribute to Carlo Parini but also because that is where the need to go beyond the emergency and create a magazine focusing on the integration of the new generations has come from. You can also listen to the Commissario’s musings in our podcasts on storielibere.fm.

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