Italy: Human Rights Of Refugees Violated

The immediate forced return to Libya, by aeroplane, of over 300 foreign nationals newly arrived in Italy constitutes a very serious violation of national and international laws and conventions relating to the right to seek asylum, said the organisation. Libya is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention guaranteeing the rights of refugees. In the past it has returned hundreds of refugees to Somalia and Eritrea, both countries where human rights violations are rife.

Amnesty International said:

'Many of those returned may have been fleeing war and persecution. Sending them back to their home countries could mean sending them back to their deaths. Italy has a duty to at least assess whether they have a reasonable claim for asylum.

'Everyone has the right to request asylum and to be informed of that right. The European Union and Italy must stop trying to offload their own responsibilities and international obligations on to third countries.'

The removal of these people from Italy, without properly informing them of their right to request asylum and without giving them access to the relevant process for possible recognition of refugee status, constitutes behaviour which is outside all national and international standards, said Amnesty International.

In particular, it is a serious violation of the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Article 33 lays down the principle of non-refoulement (the principle of not rejecting asylum-seekers, even if they have entered a country illegally): 'No Contracting State shall expel or return ('refouler') a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion'.

Since 2001 Amnesty International has worked with organisations including the Italian Consortium of Solidarity (Consorzio Italiano di Solidarietà , ICS) and Doctors without Borders-Italy (Medici Senza Frontiere-Italy, MSF) to guarantee respect for the rights of refugees and to promote the adoption of a specific law on asylum in Italy - the only EU country where no such law exists.

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