NRC Article: Seaborne interception of immigrants tested in ECtHR

From NRC Handelsblad (Netherlands):  “None of them have ever set foot on European soil. Most are incarcerated in Libyan detention centres. Some may have already been sent back to their countries of origin. Yet they are filing suit against the Italian state in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The plaintiffs are 24 immigrants from Somalia and Eritrea who tried to sail from Libya to Italy on May 6, 2009. They were intercepted by the Italian coast guard 35 kilometres off the island of Lampedusa and immediately sent back to Libya. Back in the north African country, the would-be immigrants were put in touch with two Italian immigration lawyers, who then brought their case to the ECHR in Strasbourg.

The case is unique, said Thomas Spijkerboer, a professor of migration law at Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit. ‘For the first time, Europe’s highest court for human rights will look into the most controversial policy combating illegal seaborne migration any European state has implemented so far,’ he said. …

The Italian lawyer Anton Giulio Lana has been granted power of attorney to act on the behalf of 24 returned would-be immigrants. Lana was put in touch with his clients by an international NGO that operates in Libya. Speaking on the phone from Rome, Lana explained: ‘I would rather not say what NGO is helping us. It needs to be able to operate in Libya for the time being.’  According to Lana, Italy has violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights that prohibits ‘torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. Deported immigrants run the risk of being exposed to such treatment in Libya. The convention also forbids collective expulsion of foreigners, and according to refugee law, it is illegal to deport asylum seekers to a country where they could face persecution.”

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Filed under European Court of Human Rights, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News

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