Footage filmed by a Syrian refugee in the Italian Island of Lampedusa has shown migrants queuing, being forced to strip and be sprayed in open air. People are being treated “like animals”, states the author of the footage.

In the centre, that hosts many migrants who survived perilous boat journeys across the Mediterranean, including many of the survivors of the Lampedusa tragedy, the procedure is reported to take place every few days for both men and women to combat scabies, a skin condition.

Kris Pollet, ECRE’s Senior Legal and Policy Officer has stressed that such treatment is unacceptable and could amount to degrading treatment under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

ECRE member Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) has stated that this situation takes place because many of the services related to immigration in Italy are selected based on the least expensive cost. “Bids are made by cooperatives and entities that often have solely profit motives, and who have no interest in immigrants’ rights”, stated the Director of CIR Christopher Hein.

“[The reception system] has to change. This is not what we were expecting to see just two months after the shipwrecks which prompted weeping, tears, commitments and promises”, stated Giusi Nicolini, mayor of Lampedusa.

After the footage was made public, the European Commission issued a press release stating that the conditions in the centre are appalling and unacceptable.  “Our assistance and support to the Italian authorities in managing migratory flows can only be continued if the country guarantees humane and dignified reception conditions to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees”, the statement highlights. Commissioner Cecilia Malmström also stated that the Commission would “not hesitate to launch an infringement procedure to make sure EU standards and obligations are fully respected”. Hein states that CIR shares Malmström’s opinion on ceasing economic aid to Italy if the country is not capable of guaranteeing reception conditions in line with European standards.

The staff of the Lampedusa centre, which hosts more 350 people than its capacity, has now been fired. Hein stresses that asylum seekers and refugees can spend up to one year in centres which lack basic services and are overcrowded, with as many as 4,000 migrants.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 20 December 2013
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