Category Archives: European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

COE Parliamentary Assembly Adopts Resolution Regarding North African Migrants & Asylum Seekers

Earlier today PACE approved a resolution based on a report by Tineke Strik (Netherlands, SOC) addressing the large influx of migrants and asylum seekers on Europe’s southern borders.  From the PACE press statement: the Assembly “welcomed the efforts so far of the ‘frontline states’ to provide humanitarian assistance in line with their international obligations, and urged other European countries to ‘show solidarity’ with them, including by agreeing to resettle refugees and other persons with international protection needs. Malta was in a ‘particularly difficult situation’ given its small size, high population and limited resources… If the current wave of arrivals in Europe increases because of an even greater exodus of persons from Libya, in particular Libyans fleeing terror from Colonel Gaddafi’s regime or an entrenched civil war, the EU should consider applying its temporary protection directive….”

Excerpts from PACE Resolution 1805 (2011):

The large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees on Europe’s southern shores


6.       The Parliamentary Assembly recognises that one of the first priorities is to deal with the humanitarian and international protection needs of those who have arrived on Europe’s shores, primarily in Italy and Malta. Member states, the European Union, international organisations, civil society and others all have a contribution to make and need to show solidarity with the front-line states. This solidarity and willingness to share responsibility needs to extend to the coast of North Africa and the many thousands of refugees and displaced persons still seeking ways to return home after fleeing from Libya. It should also extend to those migrants and refugees who are trapped in Libya awaiting the chance to flee.

7.       The Assembly notes that while there has been a wave of arrivals, there has not yet been the feared total deluge. This distinction is important because it has not always been clearly made by politicians, the media and others, leading to heightened fear and misunderstanding among the general public and calls for exaggerated responses.

8.       The Assembly recognises the pressure that the front-line countries of the Council of Europe are under, and welcomes their efforts to provide humanitarian assistance in line with international obligations and encourages them to continue with these efforts. The Assembly reminds states of their international obligations not to push back boats which are carrying persons with international protection needs.


12.       The Assembly, recognising that events in North Africa are of concern to all member states of the Council of Europe, therefore calls on member states to:

12.1.        acknowledge that the arrival of a large number of irregular immigrants on the southern shores of Europe is the responsibility of all European states and requires a solution which envisages the need to share this responsibility collectively. The Assembly reminds member states of the repeated appeals of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights for the need for effective responsibility sharing;

12.2.       provide urgent humanitarian aid and assistance to all those persons arriving on Europe’s southern shores and other borders, including through the provision of adequate accommodation, shelter and health care, as highlighted previously in Assembly Resolution 1637 (2008) on Europe’s boat people: mixed migration flows by sea into southern Europe;

12.3.       refrain from automatic detention and have recourse to detention only where there is no other reasonable alternative, ensuring that conditions comply with minimum human rights standards as outlined in Assembly Resolution 1707 (2010) on detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Europe;

12.4.       ensure that vulnerable persons, including women and children, victims of torture, victims of trafficking, and the elderly, are not detained and receive appropriate care and assistance;

12.5.       guarantee the right of asylum and non-refoulement through, inter alia:

12.5.1.       ensuring that states give access to their territory to persons in need of international protection;

12.5.2.       assuring the quality and consistency of asylum decisions in line with Assembly Resolution 1695 (2009) on improving the quality and consistency of asylum decisions in the Council of Europe member states;

12.6.       ensure that, in screening arrivals and carrying out asylum determinations, these are carried out without delay, but that speed is not given preference over fairness;

12.7.       provide full support to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other international and national organisations providing humanitarian and other assistance, both in North Africa and in the European countries of arrival, and generously take part in resettlement programmes for refugees stranded in North African countries;

12.8.       show solidarity in the challenges faced, which includes sharing responsibility with front-line states, including by:

12.8.1.       giving further support to the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex) and the newly established European Asylum Agency (EASO), and encouraging further use of European Union funding available through the External Borders Fund, the Return Fund, the European Refugee Fund and the Integration Fund;

12.8.2.       looking into the possibility of taking on commitments for resettlement of those with international protection needs from the European countries of arrival and on suspending the application of the Dublin Regulations or on considering other forms of responsibility sharing, through the use of existing mechanisms provided for in the Dublin Regulation, including the solidarity clause in Article 3(2) and the humanitarian clause in Article 15;

12.8.3.       working together, including with the European Union, on the issue of voluntary and forced returns, taking into account necessary human rights safeguards when relying on readmission agreements in line with Assembly Resolution 1741 (2010) on readmission agreements: a mechanism for returning irregular migrants;

12.8.4.        acknowledging the particularly difficult situation in which Malta finds itself, in view of the size of its territory, its high population density and limited human and material resources, and committing to the resettlement of those with international protection needs.


14.       If a mass exodus of Libyan refugees occurs because of increasing terror by Colonel Gaddafi or the emergence of a civil war, the Assembly encourages the European Union member states to consider applying the temporary protection directive (Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof). It is important, however, to ensure that no states are considering returning Libyans at this stage and that at least a form of temporary protection is provided in practice.


Click here for Resolution. (Resolution 1805 (2011))

Click here for Recommendation. (REC 1967 (2011))

Click here for PACE press statement.

Click here for Report, Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, Rapporteur: Ms Tineke STRIK, (Doc. 12581, 13 April 2011).


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COE CPT Completes Ad Hoc Mission to Greece

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) released a statement yesterday that it had completed a one week (20-27 Jan.) ad hoc mission to Greece “to assess the concrete steps taken by the Greek authorities to implement long-standing recommendations, in particular those contained in the reports on the CPT’s visits of September 2005, February 2007, September 2008 and September 2009.   In the course of the visit, the CPT’s delegation examined the treatment and conditions of detention of migrants held in aliens detention centres and in police and border guard stations, particularly in the Attica and Evros regions….”  The CPT report to the Greek government is scheduled to be delivered in March 2011.

Among the detention centres visited by the CPT were several Border Guard stations in Evros and the “Filakio Special holding facility for illegal immigrants” where many of persons apprehended along the land border of Greece and Turkey are being detained in deplorable conditions.  Doctors Without Borders released a press statement last week describing the conditions at the Greek detention centres in Evros as unbearable, inhumane, and having reached an emergency situation.

Click here for CPT Press Release.

Click here for Doctors Without Borders Press Release.

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1 Year Anniversary of Italy’s Push-Back Practice

This month marks the first anniversary of the implementation of Italy’s push-back practice with Libya.  The practice is based primarily on the Italy-Libya Treaty of Friendship, August 2008, and the Supplementary Protocol of 4 February 2009.

The first push-back operation occurred on 6 May.  As a reminder, here is the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s (CPT) description of the first operation:

Operation of 6 May 2009

According to data provided by the Italian authorities, 231 migrants (191 men and 40 women) were aboard three vessels in distress. The information collected from other sources indicates that among the migrants there were unaccompanied minors and four pregnant women. Following the interception of the boats by two Coast Guard vessels and one vessel of the Guardia di Finanza, the migrants were transferred onto the three Italian vessels and returned to Libya. The CISOM [Order of Malta Italian Relief Corps] personnel and a journalist, who was aboard the vessel of the Guardia di Finanza, indicated that they were not aware that the migrants would be pushed back to Libya, and that the captains of the Italian vessels only received an order to do so in the course of the operation.

The delegation was unable to interview the migrants pushed back to Libya or, given the authorities’ refusal to provide their names, the captains of the Italian vessels involved in the operation. However, reliable information collected by the delegation would indicate that, during the operation, which lasted around 12 hours, the 74 persons on the Guardia di Finanza vessel were provided insufficient water and no food or blankets; further, physical violence, in particular with kicks, punches and blows with an oar, was allegedly used against a number of migrants by Libyan police at the harbour in Tripoli, to force them to disembark from the two Coast Guard vessels.

Click here (IT) for article and podcast from AMISnet: “Un anno di respingimenti.”

Click here for earlier post.

Click here for the full CPT Report.

Click here for the Response of the Italian Government.

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Int’l Law Observer: Italy’s Asylum Policy Violates Int’l Law

Some additional comments on the Council of Europe CPT’s condemnation of Italy’s push-back practice in the Mediterranean can be found in a post by Michèle Morel on International Law Observer.

The “conclusion of the CPT is highly important in the light of the coming decision of the European Court of Human Rights on Italy’s asylum policy. It is a powerful signal, not only towards Italy but also towards other European countries carrying out the practice of intercepting and returning migrants without human rights guarantees, such as Spain and Greece.”

Click here for the complete post.

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Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture Report is Highly Critical of Italy’s Push-Back Practice

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published on 28 April its report on its visit to Italy in July 2009 and the official response to the report from the Italian Government.

In the CPT’s view, “Italy’s [push-back] policy, in its present form, of intercepting migrants at sea and obliging them to return to Libya or other non-European countries, violates the principle of non-refoulement, which forms part of Italy’s obligations under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

“The so-called push-back policy, as pursued by the Italian authorities and described in this report, does not meet [the] requirements [ of the ECHR]. The CPT urges the Italian authorities to substantially review forthwith the current practice of intercepting migrants at sea, so as to ensure that all persons within Italy’s jurisdiction – including those intercepted at sea outside Italian territorial waters by Italian-controlled vessels – receive the necessary humanitarian and medical care that their condition requires and that they have effective access to procedures and safeguards capable of guaranteeing respect for the principle of non-refoulement.”

The CPT is also very critical of the lack of cooperation received from the Italian Government: “Regrettably, the co-operation received at the central level [of the Italian Government] was, in certain respects, unsatisfactory. The delegation was denied access to some documents and information it had requested, which did not facilitate its task. Other information requested by the delegation prior to and in the course of the visit was not provided in a timely manner and when eventually furnished was, moreover, incomplete.”

“For instance, information requested pertaining, inter alia, to the logbooks from each push-back operation and the names of personnel responsible for the operations, which the authorities undertook to provide to the delegation, was subsequently refused on grounds of confidentiality. Also, the Italian authorities denied the existence of a list/inventory of objects seized from migrants in the course of a push-back operation, a copy of which the delegation had requested, and yet certain representatives of the Navy had told the delegation that such a list had indeed been compiled.”

“Further, the CPT’s delegation learned from the press, and not from the Italian authorities, that during the visit, on 29-30 July 2009, a push-back operation took place. … In the Committee’s view, when a CPT delegation carries out a visit to a Party to the Convention focussing on a specific issue made known in advance, the State authorities should, in a spirit of co-operation, endeavour to keep the visiting delegation informed of significant events pertaining to that same issue.”

Click here for CPT Press Release.

Click here for the CPT Report.

Click here for the Response of the Italian Government.

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COE Committee of Ministers: “Europe’s boat people: mixed migration flows by sea into southern Europe”

The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on 31 March adopted its Reply to COE Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1850 (2008) on“Europe’s boat people: mixed migration flows by sea into southern Europe.”

Comments from the COE European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are attached to the Rely as an Appendix.

The Reply contains an acknowledgement that the Committee of Ministers was not able to reach agreement on the recommendation that guidelines be prepared for minimum standards to be applied to the detention of irregular migrants:

“5. The Committee of Ministers has taken note of the proposal that guidelines be prepared for minimum standards to be applied to the detention of irregular migrants and asylum seekers. However, the Committee of Ministers has not, at the present time, reached a common position with regard to examining possibilities for Council of Europe action in this area. The Committee of Ministers underlines the importance of the relevant instruments of the Council of Europe, such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the recommendations adopted by the Committee of Ministers in this field (see paragraph 9 below), as well as those emerging from the work of the CPT and the Commissioner for Human Rights. It notes the ongoing work in the European Union in this field, including the revision under way of the 2003 directive laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers.”

Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1850 was issued in 2008 prior to the implementation in 2009 of Italy’s push-back practice and the Committee of Ministers’ Reply does not make explicit reference to Italy’s push-back policy.  The Recommendation and Reply are focused on the treatment of irregular migrants as they arrive on the shores of member states.

But there are several statements in the Reply which should apply implicitly to the irregular migrants whether encountered upon arrival on shore or intercepted or rescued in international waters.

For example:

“6. Particularly significant instruments in this field, also to be borne in mind in the framework of any possible activity in this area, include Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation No. R (98) 13 of 18 September 1998 on the right of rejected asylum seekers to an effective remedy against decisions on expulsion in the context of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Recommendation No. R (98) 15 on the training of officials who first come into contact with asylum seekers, in particular at border points and Recommendation Rec(2003)5 on measures of detention of asylum seekers. The Committee of Ministers would also signal the “Twenty guidelines on forced return” adopted on 20 May 2005 and the Guidelines on human rights protection in the context of accelerated asylum procedures adopted on 1 July 2009.”

“7. The Committee of Ministers would also refer to other texts relevant in this area, such as its reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1755 (2006) on “Human rights of irregular migrants” in which it draws attention to the minimum safeguards provided for in the European Convention on Human Rights that can be applied to irregular migrants. It also recalls its Recommendation No. R (2000) 3 to member states on the right to satisfaction of basic material needs of persons in situations of extreme hardship, which provides a minimum threshold of rights which should be recognised regardless of their status.”

“10. The Committee of Ministers would also draw attention to the extensive work of the Commissioner for Human Rights in this field and to his recommendations to member states and his appeals for solidarity within Europe with those countries that are on the frontline and facing a very difficult situation. It also refers to the regular exchanges of views that it holds with the Commissioner during the year. These exchanges are both of a general nature but also concern specific country reports in which he addresses, inter alia, the protection of human rights of immigrants and asylum seekers, including, where relevant, those arriving by sea. [***]”

Click here for the full Committee of Ministers Reply.

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