Ten European associations file a complaint with the European Commission against Italy's collective expulsion of hundreds of migrants to Lybia

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Ten NGOs working in the field of migrants' rights filed a complaint on 20 January 2005 with the president of the European Commission, Mr. Durao Barroso, in relation to the collective expulsion of over 1,000 would-be migrants in specially arranged flights to Lybia at the start of October 2004. The complaint has bben made by the Associazione di Studi Giuridici sull'Immigrazione (ASGI), ARCI, the Consorzio Italiano di Solidarietà (ICS), Association nationale d'assistance aux frontières pour les étrangers (ANAFE, France), Asociaciòn Andalucía Acoge (E), APDHA (E) Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de Andalucía - Asociaciòn Sevilla Acoge (E) - Cimade (France), Federación de Asociaciones SOS Racismo del Estado Español (E) and Groupe d'information et de soutien des immigrés (GISTI, France). They have called on the Commission to sanction Italy for contravening international and European human rights law, and includes a detailed report of the events on the island of Lampedusa from 2 to 9 October, as well as presenting legal arguments to show that Italy contravened the expelled migrants' right to defence, the prohibition against inflicting inhuman and degrading treatment, the prohibition against carrying out collective expulsions, and the non-refoulement principle. Aspects such as the failure to allow potential asylum seekers to file asylum applications (UNHCR delegates were refused entry to the early reception centre where the migrants were detained until after most of them had already been expelled) and reports of human rights violations against migrants in Lybia were also submitted as part of the complaint, whose attached documentation also refers to legal precedents.

[unofficial Statewatch translation of the text of the complaint]

Subject: protest against the Italian government for a violation of European law

Mr. President Barroso,

We have taken the initiative of pointing out to you the following facts, which we consider justify the adoption of sanctions against the behaviour of the Italian government.

During the first week of October 2004, over 100 persons disembarked from precarious vessels on the island of Lampedusa in southern Sicily, thus increasing the number of aspiring migrants and asylum seekers already detained in the so-called "centro di prima accoglienza" (centre of initial reception), opened by the Italian authorities on the island.

On Friday 1 October, the Italian government ordered the expulsion of 90 of these foreigners on a special flight to Lybia. On Saturday 2 October, 3 new flights carried over 300 migrants to Tripoli.

On Sunday 3 October, two aeroplanes that were made available by Alitalia and two military aeroplanes made it possible to remove another 400 foreigners from Lampedusa.

On Thursday 7 October, 4 military aeroplanes send back the last "undesirables", who were seen by many witnesses as they were embarked on aeroplanes while they were hand-cuffed. The two first aeroplanes left at 14:00, the other two at 15:15. Overall, according to what the Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu declared in the Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies, the Italian Parliament) on 8 October, over one thousand foreigners were expelled from Italy to Lybia in only 4 days. It appears that these expulsions took place under the cover of an Agreement that was recently reached by the two Countries on the issue of the fight against illegal immigration, an Agreement that is not included in the list of readmission Agreements signed by Italy with third countries.

Several elements lead us to think that these expulsions were carried out under conditions that did not allow the respect of a certain number of legal principles provided for by international law.

During these persons' stay inside the "centro di prima accoglienza" in Lampedusa, representatives of UNHCR were denied access for several days to a place in which hundreds of men, women

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