On 30 August 2020, five Eritrean nationals entered Italy after obtaining entry visas in order to access procedures for obtaining international protection after they were illegally returned to Libya in 2009.

Their arrival follows a November 2019 ruling by the Court of Rome, which determined that the rejection and immediate return of 89 individuals to Libya was illegitimate. The Court determined that as a result of the immediate return, the individuals were unable to benefit from international protection due to the illicit action of the Italian authorities. The ruling has therefore highlighted the necessity to expand the field of appreciation for international protection.

The original attempt to enter Italian territory in 2009 involved 89 individuals of various nationalities, who were attempting to flee from acts of persecution. After their immediate return, many have since been held in detention or exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment. 16 Eritrean nationals have been stuck in Israel, where they face a risk of expulsion.

The decision of the Court of Rome to provide entry for the purpose of applying for international protection is therefore a significant development in respect of the right to asylum enshrined in Article 10 of the Italian Constitution. Indeed, the case indicates, for the first time, that entry visas have been granted to access international protection procedures on the basis of individuals’ rights rather than a concession by the State on humanitarian grounds. Moreover, the historic decision suggests that hundreds of others may be affected by the ruling.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.