Local News — 23 February 2012 — 13:15CEST
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that by pushing migrants back to Libya, Italy violated the European Convention on Human Rights and in particular the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits returning migrants to countries where they may face persecution or inhuman or degrading treatment.
The case concerns the first push-back operation carried out in May 2009 when the Italian authorities intercepted a boat carrying about 200 Somalis and Eritreans, including children and pregnant women. These migrants were taken on board Italian ships, forced back to Tripoli and handed over to the Libyan authorities against their will.
The emigrants were not informed on their real destination and were led to believe that they were heading towards the Italian coast. 11 Somalis and 13 Eritrean, traced and assisted by the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) in Libya after their refoulement, lodged a complaint against Italy to the EctHR.
The Court fully condemned Italy for violation of three fundamental principles: that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to an effective remedy and the prohibition of collective expulsions.
The Court remarked that the rights of African migrants in transit to reach Europe are systematically violated in Libya. Furthermore, Libya has not offered asylum-seekers adequate protection against the risk of being returned to their countries of origin, where they could be persecuted or killed.
The Italian Government, in its defence, argued that Libya had at the time been considered a “safe country” and, furthermore, that the applicants had not in any way expressed the desire to apply for asylum or any other form of international protection to the officials on board.
The Court wholly rejected the objections of the Italian Government, considering that the migrants intercepted in international waters were not given any actual possibility to obtain an individual evaluation of their personal circumstances in order to benefit from the protection afforded to refugees by international and community laws.
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