Amnesty International calls for an end to mass expulsions
Following the expulsion to Cairo of 68 migrants of the 131 who were intercepted in a boat by the Italian authorities off the coast of in Sicily on 26 October 2010 in a charter flight on the following evening, Amnesty International issued a press release on 29 October 2010. This claims that:
"this mass expulsion appears to have been carried out without consideration of people's right to claim asylum and in violation of Italy's obligations deriving from international law and standards on the matter of refugees and human rights".
The statement highlighted that an Italian officer had stated that the migrants initially claimed that they were Palestinians, that they were all held in a sports hall (including the 44 minors among them) for over 24 hours, purportedly to identify them and organise returns, that Italian authorities explained that they were in fact Egyptian "irregular migrants" rather than Palestinians. And, most importantly, that UNHCR, Save the Children, the IOM and the Italian Red Cross were denied access to the migrants in spite of their repeated requests to see them and of the fact that they are part of a programme funded by the EU and the Italian government to provide immediate assistance to anyone arriving on the Sicilian coast in difficult conditions.
AI argued that it is the first time since 2005 in which UNHCR has been denied access after submitting a formal request and called upon the Italian government to clarify whether the migrants were identified, how their ages and need for protection were established, whether they were informed of their right to claim asylum and whether any such applications were actually submitted. Of the boat's other passengers, 19 were arrested for involvement in illegal immigration activities, whereas 44 were identified as minors and, although they were not summarily expelled, they were detained for 24 hours without access to specialised assistance.
John Dalhuisen, deputy director of AI's Europe and central Asia programme, stated that:
"the Italian authorities must immediately put an end to summary expulsions of foreign citizens"
"In their hurry to carry out the expulsions, Italian authorities are ignoring customary procedures and international standards for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers" and expressing concern over whether the 69 people who were forcibly returned had the opportunity to submit asylum applications and for these to be assessed "in the context of a fair and satisfying procedure".
Amnesty International chiede all'Italia di porre fine alle espulsioni di massa, Rome, 29.10.2010
Previous Statewatch coverage
Italy/Egypt: Over half the migrants who arrived in Catania deported in under a day
ASGI asks for the rights of migrants and refugees who arrived in Catania to be respected
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