Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks completed a four day visit to Italy between 3-6 July. The visit was “focused on the human rights of Roma and Sinti and on the human rights of migrants, including asylum seekers.” A report on the visit will be issued in the future. In the meantime the Commissioner released a statement on 9 July in which he “welcomed recent declarations [in Italy] at the highest political level that the ‘push-back’ policy will no longer be applied, in the light of the Hirsi Jamaa judgment of the Strasbourg Court [and stated his appreciation for] the efforts throughout the country to accommodate persons arriving from North Africa in the first half of 2011…” The Commissioner further “recommended that the system of reception centres be unified, guaranteeing an adequate level of protection everywhere, and capable of responding to fluctuating migratory flows. The Commissioner also pointed out that once officially recognized, refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection do not receive the crucial support they need to integrate into Italian society, and are therefore forced to live in destitute conditions. The Commissioner said ‘I personally witnessed the intolerable circumstances faced by 800 such persons, struggling to survive in an abandoned building in Rome. This is unacceptable in a country like Italy’.”
Click here for full statement.
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg issued a new Comment, “African migrants are drowning in the Mediterranean,” in which he voices the concern that “preventing migrants from coming [to Europe] has become more important than saving lives” and calls for a dramatic increase in “surveillance – from the air – along the Libyan coast and further out in order to spot any fragile [migrant] vessels at sea and safely prepare a rescue.”
“The drowning tragedies in the Mediterranean are not a new phenomenon; … [European deterrent measures] ha[ve] not prevented people from trying to reach Europe, but it has made the journey more dangerous and given the smugglers a reason to increase their prices. The boats have become more and more overcrowded and more of them have capsized. Smugglers have a responsibility; they take on board much too many migrants in much too unsuitable boats – and thereby put lives at risk. …
Europe has a role in this. The imperative principle of ‘rescue at sea’ must not only be respected for those close to a sinking ship; there is also a need to increase dramatically surveillance – from the air – along the Libyan coast and further out in order to spot any fragile vessels at sea and safely prepare a rescue. In view of the ongoing military operations it would be difficult to argue that there are no resources for such reconnaissance activity. Indeed, the escalation of the armed conflict has contributed to the acute situation of the sub-Saharan migrants.
European governments and institutions have more responsibility for this crisis than they have demonstrated so far. Their silence and passivity are difficult to accept. When preventing migrants from coming has become more important than saving lives, something has gone dramatically wrong.”
Click here (EN) or here (FR) for full statement.