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Five Eritreans in Italy after illegal pushback

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Sunday, 06 September 2020

Rejected illegally in 2009, they sue and get visas. The victory of the five Eritrean migrants is historic

Rejected illegally in 2009, they sue and get visas.  The victory of the five Eritrean migrants is historic
Five Eritrean citizens arrived  at Fiumicino airport to whom the Court of Rome had, last November, recognized the right to enter the territory by issuing a visa in order to access the application for international protection, after Italy had rescued them with a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea and illegally returned to Libya in 2009.

Five Eritreans in Italy after illegal pushback


Five Eritrean citizens arrived in Italy after the Court of Rome recognized their right to apply for asylum. In 2009, Italy had rescued the migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and illegally sent them back to Libya.

Five Eritrean citizens arrived at Rome's Fiumicino Airport  after the Court of Rome recognized their right to enter the country by issuing a visa allowing them to apply for international protection. 

In 2009, the migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian Navy, but then Italy illegally sent them back to Libya. 

The news was released in a statement by Amnesty International Italia and the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI), who celebrated the development, calling the migrants' return to Italy "exceptionally symbolic". 

Ruling judged historic 

The five Eritreans were part of a group of 89 migrants and asylum seekers whom Italian authorities took back to Libya. There, the migrants were once again exposed to inhumane and degrading treatment, violence, and torture, said the associations. 

Sixteen of the migrants, all Eritrean citizens, crossed Egypt and the Sinai Desert and arrived in Israel, where for about 10 years "they were blocked in the country, where their right to apply for asylum was not respected", the associations said. 

On June 25, 2016, they filed legal action in the Rome Civil Court against the Italian president's office and the Italian foreign, defence, and interior ministries. 

On November 28, 2019, the court ruled that their pushback had been illegal, and it ordered they be issued an entrance visa to allow them to apply for international protection. The ruling also sentenced Italian authorities to compensation for damages.

Amnesty International and ASGI said the ruling sets a historic precedent, in that it establishes for the first time in an Italian court the right of someone who isn't physically present in Italy to apply for asylum there. One of the five Eritreans who landed at Fiumicino said, "We're happy to be here". 

"We once again have faith in the justice system and we hope that we will receive the protection we need," he said. Another three migrants to arrive in coming months Cristina Laura Cecchino and Salvatore Fachile, attorneys with ASGI, said that with the ruling, "Finally, legal value has been restored to the obligations of protection set forth in Article 10 of the Italian Constitution. This arrival represents an important precedent." 

Ilaria Masinara, campaign manager on migration and discrimination for Amnesty International Italia, also applauded the ruling. 

"Five Eritrean asylum seekers arrived in our country in the safest and most legal way possible, which should be guaranteed to all who are forced to flee their countries due to conflicts, political persecution, and other violations of human rights," Masinara said. 

After a period of quarantine, the five Eritreans will be able to begin the procedure to ask Italy for recognition of international protection. In the coming months, three other migrants who are currently being supported by the NGO Assaf are expected to arrive. ()
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The press release

All the stages that led to the sentence

Press: videos and interviews

Five Eritrean citizens arrived today at Fiumicino airport, to whom the Court of Rome recognized the right to enter the territory by issuing a visa in order to access the application for international protection, after Italy had them rescued with a Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea and illegally returned to Libya in 2009.

Amnesty International Italia and the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (Asgi) celebrated and welcomed an arrival with an exceptional symbolic significance, which restores legality in relation to the right of asylum enshrined in Article 10 of the Constitution, which has been harmed by the Italian authorities for years they carry out actions aimed at blocking the access of all those who try to arrive and obtain protection across the Mediterranean.

Assisted by the lawyers Cristina Laura Cecchini and Salvatore Fachile of Asgi and supported by the documentation provided by Amnesty International Italia, they had appealed to the Civil Court of Rome which, on November 28, 2019, with sentence 22917, declared the rejection illegitimate, ordered the release of an entry visa to allow access to the international protection recognition procedure and sentenced the Italian authorities to pay compensation for the damage.

The ruling states that in order to make the right of asylum effective it is necessary "to expand the field of application of international protection aimed at protecting the position of those who, as a result of an illicit act committed by the Italian authority, are unable to present the application for international protection as it is not present in the territory of the State, having the authorities of the same State prevented entry, following a collective refoulement, in violation of the constitutional principles and the Charter of Rights of the European Union. "

According to Amnesty International Italia and Asgi, this is a decision that represents a historical precedent because for the first time it is established by an Italian court that those who are not present on Italian territory are entitled to a visa to seek asylum in Italy.

In this way, those who, in 2009, in a group of 89 migrants and asylum seekers, were finally brought back by the Italian authorities to Libya, where they were again exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment, violence and torture, finally obtained justice and respect for their rights. . 

After the arrival on Libyan territory, in fact, all the people had been detained, and only after long months of imprisonment were they released. Some of them, despite the risk of being rejected again, had tried again to cross the Sicilian Channel. Some lost their lives in shipwrecks in the following years, while still others managed to reach the Italian coasts and reach other countries, such as Germany and Switzerland, where they obtained international protection.

Sixteen of them, all Eritrean citizens, decided not to take the risks of a sea voyage again and to try to reach Europe by land. After passing through Egypt and the Sinai Desert, they arrived in Israel. 

For about 10 years these 16 Eritrean citizens have been stuck in Israel, where their right to seek asylum is not respected and with the constant risk of being sent back to African countries that had signed bilateral agreements with Israel, such as Uganda and Rwanda.

On 25 June 2016, they filed legal action at the Civil Court of Rome against the Prime Minister and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense and the Interior of the Italian state. On November 28, 2019, the aforementioned historic ruling.

“ We are happy to be here. We have resumed our faith in justice now we hope to have the protection we need ”, declared one of the five Eritrean citizens who landed today in Fiumicino.

“ Finally, the legal value of the protection obligations enshrined in Article 10 of the Constitution is restored. This arrival represents an important precedent because for the first time the Italian authorities are forced to guarantee entry into the territory to access the procedure for recognizing international protection and this happens not because of a humanitarian concession but the affirmation of a right of which these people are owners. The repercussions of these principles are evident towards all those policies aimed at implementing the systematic emptying of the protection obligations and very current in this historical moment ”, stated Cristina Laura Cecchini and Salvatore Fachile lawyers of Asgi.

“ Illegitimately rejected in Libya by Italy in 2009, today thanks to a sentence of the Italian justice five Eritrean asylum seekers arrived in our country in the safest and most legal way possible. What should be guaranteed to all those who have been forced to flee their countries due to conflicts, political persecution and other human rights violations, ”added Ilaria Masinara, campaign manager on migration and discrimination at Amnesty International Italy. 

After the quarantine period provided for by the regulations in force, the five Eritrean citizens will finally be able to start the procedure to ask Italy for the recognition of international protection and finally obtain all the rights that follow. 

In the coming months, three more of those rejected will also have to arrive in Italy, now supported by the non-governmental organization Assaf, who are still blocked in Israel due to the fact that they have built a family. In fact, a request was made to allow the entry of wife and children as a result, given the conditions in which they find themselves on Israeli territory and the associated risks and the decisions of the consular authority are awaited.

The “Osman case”: all the stages that led to the condemnation of Italy


In 2009, 89 people (75 men, nine women and three children) left the Libyan coast aboard a boat with the aim of arriving in Italy and other European countries to seek asylum. They fled countries where they suffered severe persecution and human rights violations, including Eritrea. Many of them never made it to Europe.

The rescue and subsequent refoulement in Libya

The 89 people left the Libyan coast at dawn on June 29, 2009 aboard a rubber boat. Whoever had organized the trip accompanied them only for a few miles, leaving them alone to face the rest of the navigation at sea. 

Crowded, with few provisions and little petrol, after three days and numerous breakdowns and the definitive shutdown of the engine, the people on board launched an SOS. On board the dinghy the situation was extremely critical: the lack of water, the fatigue of the journey and the health conditions of some had weakened the resistance of the group.

Only in the late afternoon of 1 July, when almost all hope had vanished, did help finally arrive: first a helicopter and then some patrol boats, followed by an Italian Navy boat. The ship's staff reassured them that they would soon arrive in Italy. 

Only at the first light of dawn the following day did anyone realize that the boat was about to reach the coast of Libya again. Without anyone having been given a refoulement order or being allowed to leave traces of their desire to seek asylum in Italy, the 89 people were returned, also through the use of force, to the Libyan authorities who, after having handcuffed them, they brought them back to Tripoli. On board the Libyan patrol boats also personnel of the Italian financial police. Some of the people due to the violence suffered needed to be hospitalized, all the others were re-locked in migrant detention centers where they remained for long months. 

The new attempts to arrive in Europe

The practice of rejections by Italy occurred several times between 2009 and 2010, hundreds of people were thus unlawfully rejected. The European Court of Human Rights in 2012 with the Hirsi sentence condemned our country several times for these violations.

After many months of imprisonment in inhuman and degrading conditions, between violence and torture, the 89 people were finally released one by one. 

Some of them, despite the risk of being rejected again, tried to cross the Sicilian Channel again. Others lost their lives in shipwrecks in the following years. Still others managed to reach the Italian coasts and to reach other countries, such as Germany and Switzerland, where they obtained international protection.

Sixteen of them, all Eritrean citizens, decided not to take the risks of a sea voyage again and to try to reach Europe by land. After passing through Egypt and the Sinai Desert, they arrived in Israel. It was the end of the journey. 

For years these 16 Eritrean citizens have been stranded in Israel, where their right to seek asylum is not respected and with the constant risk of being sent back to African countries that had signed bilateral agreements with Israel, such as Uganda and Rwanda.

The first 5 people of the group entered today, 30 August 2020. Three of the rejected who have built a family in the meantime are still stranded on Israeli territory. They have in fact requested to be allowed to enter with their wife and minor children due to the dangerous situation in which they find themselves in Israel and are awaiting the decision of the consular authority. They continue to be supported by Amnesty International and the non-governmental organization ASSAF (Aid Organization for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) which provided assistance and material support. 

We are concerned about the fact that in the years of waiting for the decision of the Court that made justice on the case, some of the Eritrean citizens blocked on Israeli territory have been victims of the very tough policies to combat immigration put in place by the Government and after long periods of detention. they were repatriated making them lose track. We will continue to look for them in order to finally guarantee them the protection they deserve. 

The legal action against Italy 

Association of legal studies on immigration and Amnesty International Italia immediately took action to track down the 16 Eritreans and filed a legal action at the Civil Court of Rome against the Prime Minister and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Indoor.

The action, in favor of 14 of the 16 Eritreans, was sponsored by lawyers Cristina Laura Cecchini and Salvatore Fachile of Asgi, while Amnesty International provided support, through documents and research needed to investigate the case.

In the lawsuit filed on June 25, 2014, the applicants asked for the affirmation of their right to enter Italy to access international protection and for compensation for the damages suffered as a result of illegal refoulement. 

On November 28, 2019, with sentence 22917, the first section of the Civil Court of Rome agreed with the applicants, ordering the issuance of an entry visa to access the asylum procedure, condemning the government to pay compensation for material damage.

A very important precedent

The judgment of the Civil Court of Rome is a decision of historic significance in relation to the right of asylum enshrined in Article 10 of the Italian Constitution. Finally, with the sentence recognizing the need to " expand the field of application of international protection aimed at protecting the position of those who, as a result of an illegal act committed by the Italian authority, are unable to submit an application for international protection in anything not present in the territory of the State, as the authorities of the same State have prevented entry, following a collective rejection, in violation of the constitutional principles and the Charter of Rights of the European Union ".

According to the Judge, affirming the right of entry into the territory of the State of those who have not been able to enter is the only way not to create an inadmissible protection gap in a system that recognizes and guarantees the right of asylum in its various levels on several levels. declensions.

For the first time, therefore, an entry visa is issued in order to allow someone to access the protection procedure on the basis of the affirmation of a person's right and not on the basis of a mere humanitarian concession by the State

The decision is more timely than ever in the current context that implements increasingly rapid and numerically relevant forms of refoulement both at land and sea borders, illegitimately emptying the right to asylum with illegitimate practices such as those that increase the difficulty in accessing adequate information on the possibility of expressing the will to apply for asylum and effectively prevent refugees and asylum seekers from seeing their willingness to apply for protection registered and therefore undergo readmission to their country of origin at the risk of suffering inhuman and degrading treatment and persecution of various kinds .  

The sentence also opens up an extremely interesting scenario in relation to the externalization policies of the border and management of the Mediterranean route implemented through collaboration with the Libyan authorities.

Finally, it is clear that if the Italian authorities were to be responsible for the implementation of the set of measures that transformed rejections into a progressive delegation to Libya for the blocking of migrants, with the same results in terms of lack of access to protection , thousands of people could be affected by the principles contained in the ruling.




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