Human Rights Watch has released a report regarding Italy’s forcible push-back policy:
Pushed Back, Pushed Around – Italy’s Forced Return of Boat Migrants and Asylum Seekers, Libya’s Mistreatment of Migrants and Asylum Seekers
“On May 6, 2009, for the first time in the post-World War II era, a European state ordered its coast guard and naval vessels to interdict and forcibly return boat migrants on the high seas without doing any screening whatsoever to determine whether any passengers needed protection or were particularly vulnerable. The interdicting state was Italy; the receiving state was Libya. Italian coast guard and finance guard patrol boats towed migrant boats from international waters without even a cursory screening to see whether some might be refugees or whether others might be sick or injured, pregnant women, unaccompanied children, or victims of trafficking or other forms of violence against women. The Italians disembarked the exhausted passengers on a dock in Tripoli where the Libyan authorities immediately apprehended and detained them.”
HRW’S Recommendations include:
“To the Government of Italy
- Immediately cease interdicting and summarily returning boat migrants to Libya.
- Investigate allegations that Italian naval personnel beat and used electric shocks to force interdicted boat migrants onto Libyan vessels and prosecute naval or coast guard officials who abused their authority, including those with command responsibility.
- Stop cooperating with the Libyan authorities on the interdiction and interception of third-country nationals trying to leave Libya.
- Make public all treaties and agreements between the governments of Italy and Libya.
- Cease to fund or provide other bilateral support to Libya aimed at increasing that country’s effectiveness at intercepting asylum seekers and migrants before they take to the sea or before they reach Italian waters. Redirect such support into multilateral efforts, especially through UNHCR and OHCHR, to ensure that fundamental human rights standards relating to the treatment of such persons in Libya are observed.
- Ensure access to full and fair asylum procedures, including the right to raise fear of treatment contrary to article 3 of the ECHR, for every person in the control of the Italian authorities, including those interdicted or rescued at sea.”
“To European Union Institutions and EU Member States
- Demand that Italy not violate article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights by its interdiction and summary return of migrants to a place where they are subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.
- Ensure access to full and fair asylum procedures, including the right to raise fear of treatment contrary to article 3 of the ECHR, for every person in the control of any EU member state, including those interdicted or rescued at sea.
- Adopt clear, consistent, and binding rules on EU member states establishing responsibility for disembarking migrants rescued at sea.
- Refrain from expelling third-country (non-Libyan) nationals to Libya, either directly or as partners in Frontex-coordinated operations, until Libya’s treatment of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees fully meets European standards in relation to persecution or risk of treatment contrary to article 3 ECHR. Under current conditions, the return of third-country nationals breaches European nonrefoulement obligations not to return people to inhuman or degrading treatment.
- Encourage Libya to 1) ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol; 2) adopt a national asylum law; and 3) formally recognize UNHCR.
- Display greater transparency in negotiations with Libya on all matters relating to migration and border controls.
- Ensure that the human rights clause in the Libya-EU Framework Agreement, being negotiated at the time of this writing, and in agreements flowing from it, contain explicit reference to the rights of asylum seekers and migrants as a prerequisite for any cooperation on migration-control schemes.
- Refrain from encouraging Libya from establishing any reception regime which falls below the European reception condition standards
- Quickly admit UNHCR-identified refugees in need of resettlement from Libya. Do so, however, only as a supplement rather than as a substitute for allowing spontaneous arrivals in EU territory to seek asylum.
- Direct development assistance to improve respect for human rights and human dignity in migrants’ and asylum seekers’ countries of origin to address the root causes of forced migration.”
Click here for the report.