Italy Found To Be In Breach of International Law Over Treatment of Migrants

Italy Found To Be In Breach of International Law Over Treatment of Migrants 

Italy has officially been found to be in breach of international law over its poor treatment of migrants, in a case that could have huge ramifications for EU asylum law. In a ruling, earlier this week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously that Italy was in breach of Article Five of the Convention on Human Rights in its treatment of three Tunisian migrants in 2011.

The case concerns three Tunisian nationals named, Saber Ben Mohamed Ben Ali Khlaifia, Fakhreddine Ben Brahim Ben Mustapha Tabal and Mohamed Ben Habib Ben Jaber Sfar, who left Tunisia for Italy in September 2011 during the Arab Spring. Their boat was stopped and the men transferred to the island of Lampedusa where they were taken to the reception centre in Contrada Imbriacola.

After protesting, the centre was burned down and the applicants fled to the village of Lampedusa where they, and 1,800 other migrants staged another protest. The three applicants were arrested and transferred to a ship anchored in Palermo harbour where they stayed for four days before being deported to Tunisia on September 27th and 29th.

The court ruled that Italy’s treatment of the migrants was in breach of Article 5.1 of the Convention which deals with the right to liberty and security, Article 5.2 which pertains to the right of persons to be immediately informed of the charges brought against them, and Article 5.4, the right to a speed decision by a court on the lawfulness of detention. In addition, the Court found that the migrants had suffered a “collective expulsion” which is prohibited under Article 4 of Protocol No 4 of the Convention.

The Court has also said that Italy should keep responding without exception, to those in distress on the sea and to guarantee their international protection. Italy is advised to put into place measures to allow the capacity at Lampedusa to be increased if needed and to improve facilities at the reception centre. Furthermore, proper structures should be in place to deal with minors to ensure that they are not detained with adults. Finally, all those seeking international protection should be brought to reception centres as quickly as possible.