Two large migrant boats reached Lampedusa over the past weekend. One of the boats was carrying about 250 persons, believed to be Sub-Saharan Africans, and is thought to have departed from Libya. The boat was a 15 meter wooden fishing vessel and appears to be one of the first non-inflatable boats used in many months. A second boat carrying about 125 Tunisians arrived around the same time. Smaller boats carrying mostly Tunisians have been steadily reaching Lampedusa in recent weeks. In response to the apparent increase in the numbers of persons reaching Lampedusa, former Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni (Northern League) wrote on his Facebook page and called for a resumption of Italy’s Push-Back practice to halt new boats. (“Tornano i barconi a Lampedusa. RESPINGIMENTI, come facevo io, questo serve per fermare l’invasione.”) Given the decision in the Hirsi case by the European Court of Human Rights, Italy is not likely to resume the push-back practice. 81 Sub-Saharan migrants on a disabled boat were rescued by Italian authorities on Monday. The detention centre on Lampedusa is over its 350 person capacity and Italian authorities have begun to transfer migrants to facilities elsewhere.
Tag Archives: Roberto Maroni
400 Migrants Reach Lampedusa Over Past Weekend; Detention Centre Over Capacity; Former Interior Minister Maroni Calls for Resumption of Italy’s Push-Back Practice
Statewatch Analysis: The EU’s self-interested response to unrest in north Africa: the meaning of treaties and readmission agreements between Italy and north African states
Statewatch released an Analysis by Yasha Maccanico entitled “The EU’s self-interested response to unrest in north Africa: the meaning of treaties and readmission agreements between Italy and north African states.” The Analysis provides a description of Italy’s responses to the migrant arrivals in 2011 caused by the unrest in North Africa.
Excerpts: “The ‘crisis’ reveals questionable practices and routine abuses – The measures adopted in response to the increasing number of migrants arriving from north African countries serve to highlight a number of practices that have become commonplace in Italy in recent years.
The first of these is a widening of the concept of ‘emergency.’ Calling an emergency gives the government a wider remit to derogate from specified laws so as to resolve situations that cannot be dealt with through ordinary measures….
Although the situation in north Africa was worrying, the emergency was called when slightly over 5,000 migrants had arrived. An analysis by Massimiliano Vrenna and Francesca Biondi Dal Monte for ASGI notes that the government has repeatedly called and extended states of emergency since 2002 to deal with immigration, which is treated as though it were a “natural calamity” even when there is a wholly predictable influx of people from third countries. The urgent need specified in decrees declaring a state of emergency is to conduct ‘activities to counter the exceptional – later referred to as massive – influx of immigrants on Italian territory’ (as happened on 11 December 2002, 7 November 2003, 23 December 2004, 28 October 2005, 16 March 2007, 31 December 2007, 14 February 2008 for Sicily, Calabria and Apulia and was extended to the whole nation on 25 July 2008 and 19 November 2009), stemming from a prime ministerial decree of 20 March 2002. Thus, Vrenna and Biondi Dal Monte’s observation that the emergency is ‘structural’ appears well-founded. It has serious repercussions for the treatment of migrants (see below) and the awarding of contracts outside of normal procedures, with the involvement of the civil protection department whose competencies have been expanding considerably.
The second practice involves the expulsion, refoulement or deportation of migrants outside the limits and procedures established by legislation for this purpose. The failure to identify people, to issue formal decisions on an individual basis to refuse them entry or expel them, or to give them the opportunity to apply for asylum or other forms of protection, was a key concern when boats were intercepted at sea and either the vessels or their passengers were taken back to Libya between May and September 2009, when 1,329 people were returned. These rights were also denied to people arriving from Egypt and Tunisia in application of readmission agreements in the framework of the fight against illegal migration. Their presumed nationality was deemed sufficient to enact expulsions to these countries, because ongoing cooperation and good relations with Italy appeared sufficient to indicate that they were not in need of protection, regardless of the situation in their home countries. ….
The third practice is the ill-treatment of migrants held in detention centres. Without dealing with this issue in depth, it is worth noting that what could be viewed as arbitrary detention is occurring on a large scale, in the absence of formal measures decreeing detention and without the possibility of appealing against decisions. In fact, after landing, migrants are summarily identified as either ‘illegal’ migrants or asylum seekers, largely on the basis of their nationality….”
Click here for Analysis.
Several hundred Tunisian migrants continue to be detained on board two ships in the Palermo harbour. Some of the migrants have been removed from the ships and relocated to reception centres or repatriated to Tunisia. The group of 220 migrants who were transferred by a third ship to Cagliari, Sardinia were moved to the migrant reception centre at Elmas, near Cagliari. Acting in response to a complaint made by members of civil society, the public prosecutor of Palermo opened a preliminary investigation pertaining to possible violations of law in connection with the ongoing shipboard detention of the migrants. Professor Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, Faculty of Law of Palermo, is quoted by news reports as questioning whether there is any legal authority to detain migrants on board ships. Several local politicians who were allowed to board the ships and observe conditions reported that conditions were fine. Adnkronos News reports that the ships that have been used to detain the Tunisians for the past week have been optioned for lease by the Interior Ministry through 31 December.
Italy Declares Lampedusa Unsafe; Rescued or Intercepted Migrants Will Be Taken to Sicily; 700 Migrants Detained On Board Ships for Past 3 Days
As a result of the violent disturbances on Lampedusa over the past week and a fire that damaged buildings at the island’s migrant reception centre, Italian officials have responded with drastic measures. Lampedusa has been declared an unsafe port and newly intercepted or rescued migrants will not be brought to Lampedusa, but will instead be taken to Sicily.
Hundreds of Tunisians have continued to arrive on Lampedusa in recent weeks and severe overcrowding has again resulted. The overcrowding culminated in the past week’s protests by the Tunisians. Most of the 1200+ Tunisian migrants who were on Lampedusa have been moved from the island by ship or military planes. Approximately 700 Tunisian migrants have been held for the past three days on board passenger ships in the Palermo harbour. News reports say that three ships being used to detain the migrants are the Moby Vincent, Moby Fantasy, and Audacia. AIS ship tracking information shows that as of early Sunday morning, 25 September, the Moby Vincent and Audacia are still in the harbour and that the Moby Fantasy left Palermo during the night of the 24th and is sailing towards Sardinia. It is unclear whether the Moby Fantasy is carrying migrants or not.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni was quoted on Saturday as saying that the migrants now in Palermo will all be repatriated within a few days. (“Roberto Maroni ha assicurato che gli immigrati che sono stati prelevati da Lampedusa e che si trovano attualmente a Palermo ‘saranno tutti rimpatriati nel giro di pochi giorni’”.) Maroni said that 600 Tunisians were repatriated last week and that ten repatriation flights were scheduled for the coming week.
Click here for the Euro-Police blog post on the situation.
Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni is calling for the NATO maritime blockade of Libya to be expanded to block the departure of migrant boats attempting to flee Libya. Maroni said “I think you can intervene immediately by asking the NATO vessels already along the Libyan coast … to also be used to block people from leaving … This can be done right away if NATO agrees. It would be a solution to the problem.”
Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Saturday, 7 May, that Tunisia had for the first time blocked a migrant boat from departing Tunisia pursuant to the terms of the 5 April 2011 agreement with Italy. Maroni also said that four patrol boats would be transferred to Tunisia by Italy in the coming week for purposes of increasing Tunisia’s capacity to block migrant departures.
Northern League leader Umberto Bossi has issued an ultimatum to Silvio Berlusconi demanding a parliamentary vote to set a date certain by which Italy would halt its involvement with NATO operations against Libya. The Northern League’s basic argument is that ongoing NATO attacks against Libya will lead to larger numbers of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing to Italy. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni (Northern League) repeated yesterday his belief that up to 50,000 people may soon flee Libya towards Italy.
The First Chamber of the European Court of Justice issued a decision on 28 April ruling that the Italian law which punishes migrants who remain in Italy after being ordered to depart is precluded by EU Directive 2008/115 which established the procedure by which Member States may return illegally staying third country nationals. The ruling was made in the case of Hassen El Dridi alias Soufi Karim, Case C‑61/11 PPU, 28 April 2011.
The Italian law in question was enacted in 2009 as part of a “security package” (“pacchetto sicurezza”) of immigration laws and punishes the act of illegally staying in Italy after being ordered to depart with 1 to 4 years imprisonment. Italy has never transposed Directive 2008/115. The deadline for doing so was 24 December 2010.
The Court’s ruling was as follows:
“Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals, in particular Articles 15 and 16 thereof, must be interpreted as precluding a Member State’s legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which provides for a sentence of imprisonment to be imposed on an illegally staying third-country national on the sole ground that he remains, without valid grounds, on the territory of that State, contrary to an order to leave that territory within a given period.”
The Court suggested that penalties might be imposed by a Member State after the procedures required by the Directive had been exhausted: “[This] does not preclude the possibility for the Member States to adopt, with respect for the principles and objective of Directive 2008/115, provisions regulating the situation in which coercive measures have not resulted in the removal of a third-country national staying illegally on their territory.” Para. 60.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni criticised the decision saying that it risks making expulsions difficult or impossible. UNHCR spokeswoman Laura Boldrini said that the ECJ decision was consistent and in harmony with what has already been expressed by the Italian courts, specifically the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, and expressed the hope that the EU Directive would soon be implemented.
Click here for ECJ Decision.
Click here for ECJ Press Release.
The ECJ Press Release provides a summary of the ruling; here are some excerpts from the ruling:
[Facts and Procedural Background]
18 Mr El Dridi is a third-country national who entered Italy illegally and does not hold a residence permit. A deportation decree was issued against him by the Prefect of Turin on 8 May 2004.
19 An order requiring his removal from the national territory, issued on 21 May 2010 by the Questore di Udine pursuant to that deportation decree, was notified to him on the same day….
20 A check carried out on 29 September 2010 revealed that Mr El Dridi had not complied with that removal order.
21 Mr El Dridi was sentenced at the conclusion of an expedited procedure by a single judge of the Tribunale di Trento (District Court, Trento) to one year’s imprisonment for the offence set out in Article 14(5b) of Legislative Decree No 286/1998.
22 He appealed against that decision before the Corte d’appello di Trento (Appeal Court, Trento).
[Referral of Questions to Court of Justice]
23 That [appeal] court is in doubt as to whether a criminal penalty may be imposed during administrative procedures concerning the return of a foreign national to his country of origin due to non-compliance with the stages of those procedures, since such a penalty seems contrary to the principle of sincere cooperation, to the need for attainment of the objectives of Directive 2008/115 and for ensuring the effectiveness thereof, and also to the principle that the penalty must be proportionate, appropriate and reasonable.
25 In those circumstances, the Corte d’appello di Trento … refer[ed] the following question to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:
‘In the light of the principle of sincere cooperation, the purpose of which is to ensure the attainment of the objectives of the directive, and the principle that the penalty must be proportionate, appropriate and reasonable, do Articles 15 and 16 of Directive 2008/115… preclude:
— the possibility that criminal penalties may be imposed in respect of a breach of an intermediate stage in the administrative return procedure, before that procedure is completed, by having recourse to the most severe administrative measure of constraint which remains available?
— the possibility of a sentence of up to four years’ imprisonment being imposed in respect of a simple failure to cooperate in the deportation procedure on the part of the person concerned, in particular where the first removal order issued by the administrative authorities has not been complied with?’
58 … the Member States may not, in order to remedy the failure of coercive measures adopted in order to carry out forced removal pursuant to Article 8(4) of [Directive 2008/115], provide for a custodial sentence, such as that provided for by Article 14(5b) of Legislative Decree No 286/1998, on the sole ground that a third-country national continues to stay illegally on the territory of a Member State after an order to leave the national territory was notified to him and the period granted in that order has expired; rather, they must pursue their efforts to enforce the return decision, which continues to produce its effects.
59 Such a penalty, due inter alia to its conditions and methods of application, risks jeopardising the attainment of the objective pursued by that directive, namely, the establishment of an effective policy of removal and repatriation of illegally staying third-country nationals. In particular, as observed by the Advocate General in point 42 of his View, national legislation such as that at issue in the main proceedings is liable to frustrate the application of the measures referred to in Article 8(1) of Directive 2008/115 and delay the enforcement of the return decision.
60 That does not preclude the possibility for the Member States to adopt, with respect for the principles and objective of Directive 2008/115, provisions regulating the situation in which coercive measures have not resulted in the removal of a third-country national staying illegally on their territory.
61 In the light of the foregoing, it will be for the national court, which is called upon, within the exercise of its jurisdiction, to apply and give full effect to provisions of European Union law, to refuse to apply any provision of Legislative Decree No 286/1998 which is contrary to the result of Directive 2008/115, including Article 14(5b) of that legislative decree (see, to that effect, Case 106/77 Simmenthal  ECR 629, paragraph 24; Case C-462/99 Connect Austria  ECR I-5197, paragraphs 38 and 40; and Joined Cases C‑188/10 and C‑189/10 Melki and Abdeli  ECR I-0000, paragraph 43). In so doing, the referring court will have to take due account of the principle of the retroactive application of the more lenient penalty, which forms part of the constitutional traditions common to the Member States (Joined Cases C‑387/02, C‑391/02 and C‑403/02 Berlusconi and Others  ECR I‑3565, paragraphs 67 to 69, and Case C‑420/06 Jager  ECR I‑1315, paragraph 59).
62 Consequently, the answer to the question referred is that Directive 2008/115, in particular Articles 15 and 16 thereof, must be interpreted as precluding a Member State’s legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which provides for a sentence of imprisonment to be imposed on an illegally staying third-country national on the sole ground that he remains, without valid grounds, on the territory of that State, contrary to an order to leave that territory within a given period.
On those grounds, the Court (First Chamber) hereby rules:
Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals, in particular Articles 15 and 16 thereof, must be interpreted as precluding a Member State’s legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which provides for a sentence of imprisonment to be imposed on an illegally staying third-country national on the sole ground that he remains, without valid grounds, on the territory of that State, contrary to an order to leave that territory within a given period.”
Malmström Tells Italy that Temporary Residence Permits Do Not Allow Free Movement in Schengen Area; Germany Threatens to Reinstate Border Controls
Commission Cecilia Malmström has notified Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni in a letter that the temporary residence permits being issued by Italy to Tunisian migrants will not automatically allow free movement within the Schengen area. Over the weekend Germany joined France and said that it will consider instituting border controls to prevent the entry of Tunisians in possession of the temporary residence permits from entering German territory.
French and Italian Interior Ministers Claude Guéant and Roberto Maroni today have announced an agreement for “joint air and naval patrols” off the Tunisian coast to block departures from Tunisia. Guéant is quoted by Le Figaro as saying that the new measures would be carried out with assistance from Frontex, but the report is unclear whether he is calling for Frontex participation or announcing that Frontex will participate.
While there are no specifics details being reported about this agreement, it seems to constitute a new push-back practice where there will be little or no opportunity for asylum seekers or other persons of concern to be identified and afforded the protection to which they are entitled. It is simply not possible to intercept vessels at sea and adequately identify who is on board an overcrowded migrant boat and assess whether international protection is needed by anyone on board.
Italian Interior Minister Maroni has criticised Malta for failing to immediately deploy rescue ships to assist the migrant boat that sank near Lampedusa. The Armed Forces of Malta said that the migrant boat did not capsize until after two Italian coast guard boats had responded and were on scene attempting to render assistance. The AFM said the first call for assistance was received Wednesday at 0025, the Rescue Co-ordination Centre of the AFM notified Italian Coast Guard headquarters in Rome and NATO headquarter in Naples at 0120, two Italian coast guard boats and an Italian fishing vessel, the Cartagine, were on scene by 0416, and the migrant boat capsized around 0535. The migrant boat was closer to Italian territory than to Malta, but was located within Malta’s large Search and Rescue Area. Italy and Malta have had past disputes over the boundaries of the SAR with Italy calling for the Maltese SAR to be reduced in size.
The Secretary-General of International Maritime Organization, Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, issued a statement saying that “[i]t was ironic that the devastating news of this latest tragedy reached us while we were holding a [Legal Committtee] meeting with representatives of Italy and Spain to consider what measures countries in the Mediterranean Basin should take to deal with the increasing number of persons leaving north African and eastern Mediterranean countries to seek refuge in Europe.”
The statement also said that “IMO is in contact with Italy, Malta and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The [Legal Committee] meeting mentioned above was hosted by IMO and held against a background of increasing movement of persons by sea for political and socio-economic reasons or as a result of armed conflict. It was part of an on-going process aimed at improving existing provisions for rescuing migrants at sea and disembarking them at a place of safety, in accordance with the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention) and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS Convention).”
Click here for article. (IT)
Click here for map the SARs.
Click here for IMO Statement.
Italy-Tunisia Reach Migration Agreement: 6 Month Residency Permits for Tunisians Already in Italy; Accelerated Return Procedures for Newly Arriving Tunisians
Italy and Tunisia reached a new migration agreement on Tuesday. It was signed in Tunis by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and Tunisian Minister Habib Essid. Italy reportedly pressed Tunisia to quickly accept the repatriation of the 20,000 Tunisians who have arrived in Italy. Tunisia refused to agree to the mass return of its nationals.
The compromise that was apparently reached will allow the 20,000 Tunisians who have already arrived in Italy to remain for at least six months with temporary residency permits and Tunisia in turn has apparently agreed to accelerated and simplified return procedures for newly arriving Tunisians that will not require fingerprinting or documentation. Italy reportedly believes that the accelerated repatriation procedures, once implemented, will act as a deterrent to those Tunisians who may attempt to leave Tunisia after the agreement enters into force.
The accelerated return procedures are troubling in multiple respects. While the overwhelming majority of persons who have reached Italy over the past two months are Tunisian nationals, over the past week or two for the first time there have been hundreds of non-Tunisians arriving in Italy and Malta. Many are from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia and clearly have strong claims to international protection. An accelerated return procedure will mean that persons with claims to asylum or who are in need of other forms of protection may not be properly identified.
Where will the accelerated return procedures be carried out? Will migrants be rescued, brought to land, processed under the accelerated procedures, and then repatriated? Or will Italy attempt to revive its push-back practice and attempt to turn boats around at sea?
The text of the agreement has apparently not been yet made public (at least I cannot find it), but various media reports suggest that its provisions include the following:
- Six month temporary residency permits for Tunisian nationals who have already arrived in Italy (what happens when the six month period expires is not clear);
- Temporary residency permits will allow free travel within the Schengen zone (but if the holder of the permit is outside of Italy when the permit expires, the person could apparently be returned to Italy);
- Accelerated direct repatriation for newly arriving Tunisian nationals (the date on which the decree is signed will apparently determine whether a Tunisian receives the temporary permit or is subject to direct repatriation, the decree may be enacted as soon as today, Wednesday, 6 April);
- Increased cooperation between Italy and Tunisia police / security forces;
- Italy to provide 12 new and refurbished patrol boats and hundreds of off-road vehicles to Tunisia.
The announcement of this bi-lateral agreement comes one day after Frontex released its recently approved Fundamental Rights Strategy. Click here for yesterday’s post about this strategy. Note the following provisions within the strategy:
“14. [***] One particular objective in [Joint Operations] is ensuring that the right to international protection must not be hampered by the law enforcement action and that persons seeking protection are referred to the competent national authorities to assess their case.
15. [***] Corrective measures should be taken in case of breach or serious risk of breach of fundamental rights. As last resort, Frontex might terminate a JO if the conditions guaranteeing the respect for fundamental rights are no longer met. [***]”
It remains to be seen what Italy will do in regard to accelerated direct repatriations to Tunisia, but there is definitely the concern that the right to international protection may be hampered by Italy’s actions. Frontex’s Joint Operation Hermes Extension is currently hosted by Italy. Frontex may be obligated to act pursuant to its Fundamental Rights Strategy depending on what new practices are implemented by Italy.
Responding to statements made by Italian Ministers Maroni and Frattini that Tunisia was not complying with recent migration agreements reached during their 25 March visit to Tunis, a Tunisian Foreign Ministry source said on Saturday that no such agreement was finalised or signed.
A statement summarising the 25 March meeting between Italy and Tunisia, previously posted on the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site, said in relevant part that “bilateral and regional cooperation has also been discussed during this meeting, particularly regarding the management of migration flows and within the framework of a comprehensive and integrated approach. As such, both sides agreed to conclude in the near future an agreement on joint management of migration and development in solidarity like agreements signed with other partner countries.” (“La coopération bilatérale et régionale a été, également, évoquée au cours de cette réunion, notamment, en ce qui concerne la gestion des flux migratoires et ce dans le cadre d’une approche globale et intégrée. A ce titre, les deux parties ont convenu de conclure dans un proche avenir un accord relatif à la gestion concertée de la migration et au développement solidaire à l’instar des accords signés avec d’autres pays partenaires.”
Click here (FR) for Tunisian FM statement re 25 March meeting.
Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Monday that “[i]f [the Tunisian Government] do[es] not send specific signals [and begin] keeping the promise of a commitment to stop the migration, Italy will proceed with the forced repatriations.” (“Se non manderà segnali concreti, mantenendo la promessa di un impegno per fermare i flussi migratori, l’Italia procederà con i rimpatri forzosi.”) Maroni also said “Tunisia had promised an immediate commitment to stop migration, but the boats continue to arrive. We are not subject to blackmail as with Libya for oil. [Tunisia is] dependent on us, especially in the tourism sector.”
Foreign Minister Frattini said that if Tunisian migrants do not agree to assisted returns to Tunisia, with the possible payment of €1500 using EU funds, “there is a second level of intervention for those who do not accept assisted repatriation, which is stated in the Bossi-Fini law: expulsion.”
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni are in Tunis today for negotiations with Tunisian Prime Minister Beji Caid Essebsi and others in an effort to seek Tunisian cooperation to prevent migrant departures from Tunisia. According to a statement on the Italian Foreign Ministry web site, Italy is calling for “the resumption of cooperation to combat illegal immigration” and for “immediate and adequate coastal monitoring as well as cooperation in identifying and readmitting irregular migrants.” According to ANSA, Italy is “ready to offer economic aid, personnel and equipment (vessels, equipment, radar, etc.).”