11 April 2014

The Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) has published a report on the Italian legislation and practices regarding border controls, access to the territory and access to the asylum procedure.

In March 2011, Italy officially declared the end of its “push-backs” policy that would be later condemned by the European Court of Human Rights in the case Hirsi Jamaa and others v. Italy. According to the report, Italy respected this commitment with few exceptions, such as in June 2012 when a joint Italian-Libyan patrol intercepted a boat of Eritrean migrants in high seas and escorted them to Libyan waters where they were handed over to Libyan authorities. The Italian Customs police denied their involvement.

According to CIR, the law should require that law enforcement authorities verify the treatment to which migrants would be exposed in the country where authorities intend to return them. Migrants should have a right to appeal a return order and the appeal should have a suspensive effect. Also, CIR recommends that binding rules on disembarkation of migrants and the concept of “safe place” should be adopted.

According to CIR, the bilateral agreements signed with North African third countries such as Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia to speed up the readmission of irregular migrants arriving in Italy, may hinder migrants’ access to procedural guarantees such as the right to be informed and to receive legal assistance, the right to an effective remedy, and the possibility to contact NGOs or other organisations specialised in migration-related issues and asylum.

CIR also underlined that these fast-track readmission procedures prevent an adequate identification of vulnerable groups in need of protection, such as unaccompanied asylum seeking children and victims of torture or trafficking. In addition, these agreements do not necessarily envisage provisions concerning the respect of human rights and the principle of non-refoulement.

Regarding search and rescue, the report highlights the “Mare Nostrum” operation in the Channel of Sicily, launched by the Italian authorities in October 2013. Since November 2013, no deaths of migrants in the part of the Mediterranean sea covered by the operation has been registered.

The study is part of the project “Access to Protection: a human right”, funded by the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM), an initiative of the Network of European Foundations.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 April 2014
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