Pushbacks to Libya carried out by private companies and coordinated by Italian authorities in collaboration with the so-called Libyan Coast Guard must be declared illegal. The effects of borders externalization policies under scrutiny by the Court of Rome.
Five Eritrean citizens started a lawsuit against the Italian authorities, Augusta Offshore and the commander of the ship Asso Ventinove, with the support of the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and Amnesty International Italy. In fact, on July 2nd, 2018, the plaintiffs were pushed back to Libya by the ship “Asso Ventinove” of Augusta Offshore as part of operations coordinated by the Italian authorities with the collaboration of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard. They are now requesting that the pushback – which exposed them to months of arbitrary detention and violence in violation of, among others, their right to asylum – is declared illegitimate.
The facts of the case show that on July 2nd, 2018, the Italian authorities requested and coordinated the intervention of the “Asso Ventinove” in the rescue operations initiated by a Libyan patrol boat. Specifically, ships Caprera and Duilio of the Italian Navy, stationed in Tripoli, requested the Asso Ventinove to take on board 150 people from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan who were fleeing Libya. The ship brought the people back to Tripoli and handed them over to the Libyan authorities. The fleeing citizens were then again illegally detained and subjected to abuse and torture.
This event seems to confirm the central role of the Italian authorities in Libya. Moreover, it reveals the involvement of certain private actors, who have interests and economic activities in Libya, in the fight against departures from the country.
The defense team is composed by lawyers Cristina Laura Cecchini, Luca Saltalamacchia, Salvatore Fachile, Giulia Crescini, Loredana Leo and Alberto Guariso.
Lawyer Luca Saltalamacchia and Lawyer Giulia Crescini of the defense team
Ilaria Masinara, Amnesty International Italy
Adelaide Massimi, ASGI Sciabaca&Oruka Project
Erasmo Palazzotto, Member of the Italian Parliament (LeU)
Sara Fratini, Writer and activist
“At last, a national judge is called to evaluate the legitimacy of the instrument of refoulement, used in a massive way in the Mediterranean Sea and as a fundamental part of the policies of externalization of the European Union. These policies are now confirmed and strengthened by the New Pact on Immigration and Asylum” says Adelaide Massimi of the ASGI Sciabaca&Oruka project
“The action of commercial vessels in SAR operations in the Mediterranean Sea has become increasingly central as a result of border externalization policies and criminalizing practices towards civil society organizations active in the Mediterranean. We hope that the duty to protect life at sea and the respect of the principle of non-refoulement, which obliges anyone to take the rescued persons to a safe port, will be reaffirmed” says the defence team.
“Among the consequences of Italian policies to stop the departure of migrants and refugees from Libya at all costs, economic and especially human, through a memorandum of understanding signed with the North African country and now in its fifth year of application, there is also the involvement of private commercial vessels flying the Italian flag in activities, such as rejections, which for us are illegal and that we hope the Court of Rome will recognize as such. The plaintiffs are part of 50,000 migrants and refugees who, thanks to Italy’s cooperation, were intercepted at sea and brought back to Libya to end up in detention centers with terrible conditions and be subjected to serious human rights violations” comments Ilaria Masinara of Amnesty International Italy