20 May 2016

ECRE member ASGI published a press release yesterday highlighting strong concerns in relation to an idea proposed by the Italian government and Interior Ministry to introduce the practice of ‘hotspots at sea’. According to news sources, ahead of todays’ Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, the Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano stated that Italy has been working on the idea for over a month and is ready to implement it if necessary.

‘Hotspots at sea’, also called ‘floating hotspots’, would mean that the ships used to rescue refugees and migrants in distress at sea would immediately proceed to their fingerprinting and identification after the rescue, and before reaching Italian mainland.

ASGI stated that, even though details of the proposed practice are still unclear, “the creation of ‘floating hotspots’ to be used as identification centres for migrants directly on the vessels is a breach of national and international refugee law. Each person needs to be given the opportunity to apply for asylum to the competent authorities on an individual basis, and has the right to be assisted by well-prepared interpreters and legal advisers.”

“If the identification procedure is carried out on board of the vessels, asylum seekers’ rights will be at risk of being breached, even with the presence of international organisations like UNHCR,” continued the organisation. ASGI argues that a proper access to the right to asylum can only take place on land. “’Hotspots at sea’ are not the answer”.

ASGI calls on the Italian government to abandon this unlawful proposal and invites UNHCR to closely monitor this situation with a view to ensuring effective access to international protection in Italy.

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 20 May 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.