UN Rapporteur urges Italy to respect human rights in its migration cooperation with Libya and to stop pushing back migrants to Greece

by zoejardiniere

12.10.2012 Following a nine-day visit to Italy, François Crépeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants warned that a number of bilateral readmission agreements between Italy and its neighbours do not appear to have a concern for the protection of human rights at their core.

According to Crépeau, of particular concern is the Italy-Libya bilateral cooperation on migration. Following the ruling by the ECHR in the case of Hirsi Jamaa & Others v. Italy, finding that “push-backs” towards Libya were in violation of international law, the agreement is currently suspended and the Hirsi-defined push-backs appear to have ceased. However, Italy-Libya migration cooperation was recently reinforced through a 2012 processo verbale. Crépeau points out that this new political framework contains very little concrete information on strengthening Libya’s normative framework and institutional capacities regarding the human rights of migrants. Crépeau urged Italy to ensure that migration cooperation with Libya does not lead to any migrant being returned to Libyan shores against their will, either by Italian authorities, or by Libyan authorities with the technical or logistical support of their Italian counterparts.

Accelerated removal procedures to Tunisia and Egypt were also flagged as problematic, as such short investigations of individual cases (in some cases returned within 48 hours) may not allow for adequate identification of potential protection needs and age evaluation.

Meanwhile, despite the suspension of Dublin returns to Greece following the MSS case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Italian police have admitted to preventing the disembarkation of irregular migrants from Greece onto Italian territory, thus forcing them to return to Greece. These informal push-backs have been justified by a 1999 readmission agreement between the two countries, but Crépeau maintains that they must be formally prohibited given that no account is taken of whether such people may wish to file a claim for asylum. Crépeau points to cases where such push-backs have been experienced by Afghan children.

Problems also surround the detention of migrants and asylum seekers and the fact that security concerns tend to overshadow human rights considerations in Frontex operations

This visit (from 30 September to 8 October 2012) forms part of a one year study that the Rapporteur is undertaking at the external borders of the EU and which will include a visit to Greece in November. The final study will be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2013.

For further information:

  1. Pro Asyl, Greek Council for Refugees, Human Cargo. Arbitrary readmissions from the Italian sea ports to Greece

–                     ECRE, interview with Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen about the ECtHR Hirsi case: “States cannot shirk their human rights responsibilities by hiding behind the fact that they are operating beyond their physical borders”, February 2012.

–                     ECRE, interview with François Crépeau: “Erecting barriers only makes the journey more difficult, more expensive and more dangerous.” March 2012

–                     FIDH, Libya. The Hounding of Migrants Must Stop, October 212

–                     ECRE, Greek Forum of Refugees, Matthias Wiessler, How Much Further, a film about the lives of refugees in Greece, June 2012.