PACE Report: Lampedusa Reception Centres Not Suitable Holding Facilities for Migrants

The PACE Ad Hoc Sub-Committee on the large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees on Europe’s southern shores has issued a report on the migrant reception centres on Lampedusa.  A delegation of the sub-committee members visited Lampedusa in May of this year.

From the PACE Press Release:  “The reception centres in Lampedusa are not suitable holding facilities for irregular migrants, in particular Tunisians. In practice, they are imprisoned there without access to a judge, according to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Ad Hoc Sub-Committee on the large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees on Europe’s southern shores, in its report on its visit to Lampedusa*, which was declassified today [3 October 2011]. ‘The reception centres should remain just that and not be turned into holding centres,’ said Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EDG), Chair of the ad hoc sub-committee and of the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population.  In this context, the ad hoc sub-committee is concerned by the tensions on the island, which have increased exponentially: arson in the main reception centre on 20 September caused serious damage and led to an upsurge in violence, leading the Italian authorities to declare Lampedusa an ‘unsafe port’. ‘These acts of violence are to be strongly condemned. They do not acknowledge the efforts of both the local population of Lampedusa and the Italian coastguards, who day after day do their utmost to rescue people at sea and to offer them temporary shelter on the island,’ declared the members of the ad hoc sub-committee….”

Excerpts from the Report:

“XV. Conclusions and recommendations

82. Much of the work observed by the delegation on Lampedusa warrants admiration, praise and broad support, even if some of the images provided in the media in the past have conveyed a rather more negative image. However some of the underlying problems noted by the delegation during its visit have manifested themselves in recent events, notably the arson attacks on the centre and the rising violence. Unfortunately what happened recently was foreseeable by the authorities and was inherent in the challenges of handling mixed flows of migrants and asylum seekers in the context of detention in a centre designed for reception.

83. What’s done is done, but lessons can usefully be learnt from the episode which has been painful both for Lampedusa and for the migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers who have been subjected to appalling conditions.

84. Lampedusa is still in the front line for arrivals of mixed migration flows by sea, in particular from Libya. The arrivals have not decreased in intensity and Italy and Europe must be ready to face up to a potentially even larger influx.

85. However, if we look at the number of arrivals so far, this is not a crisis for Italy or for Europe, but it is for Lampedusa.

86. In the immediate future, as soon as the situation is settled and the port is again considered safe, Lampedusa must remedy its limited reception capacity as the centres are immediately saturated by the arrival of boats with more and more people on board.

87. In the possibly very near future, if the number and frequency of arrivals increase, reception capacities in Italy will have to be brought into line. At the time of the visit, the Vice-Prefect and the Mayor were optimistic and convinced that the transfer system put in place was working, and that the situation would not deteriorate to the point reached earlier in the year. Furthermore, they considered that the transfer capacity could be increased through the planned provision of an additional boat. The members of the Sub-Committee at the time was confident that the Italian authorities would continue to do everything necessary to manage arrivals, even if their number were to increase. However, these measures – mostly designed for dealing with refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing Libya – have been proved insufficient to handle the challenge of handling the situation of the Tunisian migrants.

88. The Ad Hoc Sub-Committee wishes to voice its concern regarding a new agreement which the Italian authorities are reported to have signed with the authorities in Benghazi in Libya. The situation in Libya is not safe enough for people to be returned there and UNHCR’s position on this question remains unchanged. Furthermore, any attempt to deny access to persons entitled to international protection (and there are many of them in Libya) would be a clear breach of Italy’s international obligations.

89. There remains the issue of minimising loss of lives at sea and the need to ensure that all states fulfill their obligations of rescue at sea and the provision of access to international protection following any intervention.

90. Due to its proximity to North-Africa, Lampedusa is a key island to avoid even greater deaths at sea. If the boat people cannot hope to reach Lampedusa, their already highly dangerous journeys will become longer and therefore even more unsafe. To avoid more tragedies, Lampedusa’s reception capacities must be rebuild and improved as soon as possible.

91. The Ad Hoc Sub-Committee urges the Italian national, regional and local authorities to maintain their co-ordinated effort to manage arrivals of mixed migration flows in Lampedusa while complying with the relevant international standards and in co-operation with the international organisations and NGOs present on the island.

92. On the basis of its observations, the Ad Hoc Sub-Committee calls on the Italian authorities:

  • i. to continue to comply immediately and without exception with their obligation to rescue persons in distress at sea and to guarantee international protection, including the right of asylum and nonrefoulement;
  • ii. to introduce flexible measures for increasing reception capacities on Lampedusa;
  • iii. to improve conditions at the existing centres, and in particular the Loran base, while ensuring as a matter of priority that health and safety conditions meet existing standards – even when the centres are overcrowded – and carrying out strict and frequent checks to ensure that the private company responsible for running the centres is complying with its obligations;
  • iv. to ensure that new arrivals are able to contact their families as quickly as possible, even during their stay on Lampedusa, particularly at the Loran base, where there are problems in this regard;
  • v. to provide appropriate reception facilities for unaccompanied minors, ensuring that they are not detained and are kept separate from adults;
  • vi. to clarify the legal basis for the de facto detention in the reception centres in Lampedusa;
  • vii. where Tunisians in particular are concerned, only to keep irregular migrants in administrative detention under a procedure prescribed by law, authorised by a judicial authority and subject to periodic judicial review;
  • viii. to continue to guarantee the rapid transfer of new arrivals to reception centres elsewhere in Italy, even if their number were to increase;
  • ix. to consider the requests by the population of Lampedusa for support commensurate with the burden it has to bear, particularly in economic terms;
  • x. not to conclude bilateral agreements with the authorities of countries which are not safe and where the fundamental rights of the persons intercepted are not properly guaranteed, as in Libya.

93. Recalling the Assembly’s Resolution 1820 (2011) on “Asylum-seekers and refugees in Europe: sharing responsibilities”, the Ad Hoc Sub-Committee also recommends that all Council of Europe member states, and particularly the European Union member states, display greater solidarity by providing direct assistance to the countries, including Italy, which are currently faced with arrivals from the southern Mediterranean, and by accepting relocations within Europe where appropriate.

94. The Sub-Committee also urges member states to follow the example of the close co-operation between the Italian authorities and the member organisations of the “Praesidium Project” (UNHCR, IOM and the Red Cross) in managing arrivals and reception centres.

95. The Ad Hoc Sub-Committee invites the Italian authorities, through the Italian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly, to keep the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, appraised of progress on the 10 specific issues raised above on a six monthly basis.”

Click here for Report.

Click here for PACE Press Release.

Click here for my previous post.

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Filed under Analysis, Council of Europe, Italy, Libya, Mediterranean, News, Reports, Tunisia

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