Italy has been continuing to deport newly arriving Tunisian migrants pursuant to the terms of its new agreement with Tunisia, the terms of which have not been made public. Under the agreement, Tunisia has apparently agreed to the expedited returns of its nationals from Italy. 300 Tunisians were flown to Tunisia from Italy last week.
The mayor of Lampedusa, Bernardino De Rubeis, declared that the “immigration crisis” on Lampedusa is over (only 27 migrants remain on the island as of 26 April). The mayor called for the 500 extra police and military personnel who were brought to the island to deal with the migrants to leave as soon as possible so that tourists can use the hotel rooms currently occupied by the security personnel.
Amnesty International issued a Briefing Paper on 21 April: “Amnesty International findings and recommendations to the Italian authorities following the research visit to Lampedusa and Mineo.” Amnesty is highly critical of the expedited return practices that have been implemented by Italy.
Excerpts from the Briefing Paper:
“Collective summary removals, reportedly of Tunisian nationals, from Lampedusa, from 7 April 2011 onwards, following the signing of an agreement between the Italian and Tunisian authorities.
Amnesty International is extremely concerned by the enforced removal that began on 7 April from Lampedusa, following the recent signing of an agreement between the Tunisian and Italian authorities. At the time of writing these forcible returns were ongoing and had reportedly been carried out twice a day by air since 11 April.
On 6 April, the Italian Ministry of Interior announced that Italy had signed an agreement with Tunisia pursuant to which the latter committed itself to strengthening border controls with a view to preventing departures, and to accepting the speedy readmission of people who had recently arrived and who will be arriving in Italy. Amnesty International is particularly concerned that, according to the above-mentioned announcement, Tunisian migrants arriving onto Italian shores may be “repatriated directly” and with “simplified procedures”.
In the light of this announcement, and given, in particular, Amnesty International’s findings in relation to the total inadequacy of asylum procedures on Lampedusa, the organization believes that those people who have been subjected to “direct repatriations” following “simplified procedures” have been victims of collective summary removals.
As far as Amnesty International could ascertain, people have been removed from the island within one or two days of arrival. Thus, it appears highly unlikely that they would have had access to any meaningful or adequate opportunity to assert that they should not be returned to Tunisia on international protection or other grounds. In the circumstances those removals would amount to summary expulsions (cf. the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hassanpour-Omrani v Sweden and Jabari v Turkey). Such practices are strictly prohibited under international, regional and domestic human rights and refugee law and standards. Additionally human rights and refugee law and standards require that the removing state must provide an effective remedy against removal. Removing people without giving them the chance of exercising their right to challenge their removal through an effective procedure gives rise per se to a human rights violation. This is independent of whether removal would place the individuals concerned at a real risk of serious human rights violations, which, in turn, would constitute a breach of the non-refoulement principle.
Amnesty International calls on the government of Italy to:
- disclose the agreement reached with the Tunisian authorities;
- immediately desist from any further summary removals;
- ensure that anyone arriving on Italian shores is adequately screened to assess any potential protection needs, and that they are provided with adequate information about their right to challenge removal on international protection or other human rights grounds; and
- ensure access to fair and effective asylum procedures as well as access to procedures to challenge removal on other grounds.”
Click here for Amnesty’s Briefing Paper.