Appeal warns about the imminent risk of widespread human rights violations in Lampedusa

On 23 January 2009, a number of Italian associations and migrant support organisations - Amnesty International Italia, Arci, Asgi, Casa dei diritti sociali-Focus, Centro Astalli, Cir, Comunità di S.Egidio, Federazione delle Chiese Evangeliche in Italia, Medici Senza Frontiere, Movimento migranti e rifugiati di Caserta, Save the Children and Senzaconfine - issued an appeal that warn about the situation that is developing in Lampedusa, the largest of the Pelagian islands which is little over 110 kilometres away from the Tunisian north African coast.

The document provides a legal critique of the violations of fundamental rights that are taking place and are likely to occur in the near future as a result of the choices that the Italian government is adopting to manage this "crisis" which has been partly caused by its own decision to suspend the practice of transferring migrants from the first aid and reception centre to other suitable structures in Sicily or mainland Italy. The implications of this have included the presence of 1,800 people in a centre meant for 381 (extendable to a capacity of 804) and the government has announced fast-track practices for their removal and the future establishment of an identification and expulsion centre in Lampedusa against which the island's population is currently demonstrating, with the mayor Bernardino De Rubeis declaring that "We don't want to be Europe's Alcatraz".

UNHCR has also expressed its "growing concern" about the situation, as Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, has stated that around 150 people (Egyptians and Nigerians) have been repatriated directly from Lampedusa since 1 January 2009. This document focuses on the alarming conditions in Lampedusa's CSPA (first aid and reception centre) and how its legal nature is incompatible with the use to which it is being put, the risk of arbitrary detentions, the impossibility for migrants to turn to judicial authorities to argue against their detention or possible expulsion orders that may be issued against them, the implications of the transfer of the Territorial Commission for the recognition of the right to asylum of Trapani to the island, entailing a likely impossibility of submitting appeals against denials of refugee status or humanitarian protection, the uncertainty of identification procedures, the situation of unaccompanied foreign minors and particularly how their age is established through tests (x-ray scans of the wrist) that are "uncertain" in that they have a considerable margin of error that could lead to the expulsion of children from this legally protected group and the likelihood of collective expulsions taking place, which are illegal under international law and for which Italy was condemned by the European Parliament in 2005, in the case of mass expulsions from Lampedusa to Libya.

"Appeal to the institutions about the serious and imminent risk of widespread violations of the fundamental rights of refugees and migrants present in Lampedusa", Rome, 23.1.09.

"Appello alle istituzioni sul grave e imminente rischio di estese violazioni dei diritti fondamentali dei rifugiati e dei migranti presenti a Lampedusa", original, in Italian.

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