On 28 November 2019, the first instance court in Rome, in adjudicating a civil lawsuit promoted by Amnesty international and represented in court by ASGI lawyers, recognizing for the first time that a foreigner illegally pushed back by Italian authorities has the right to enter Italy to seek international protection.
The judgment upholds the claim filed by fourteen Eritrean citizens who in June 2009, after leaving Libya on a boat to reach taly, were rescued by the Italian Navy, who then handed them over to Libyan authorities. They were then taken back to Libya, where they were detained and tortured. They managed to escape and fled, via land, all the way to Israel, where they actually reside.
The Court in Rome determined that the Italian authorities’ push-back to Libya was illegal and ordered the Italian government to pay 15.000 euros to each migrant as a compensation.
Moreover, the judgment established that the Italian authorities violated the Eritrean citizens’ right to apply for asylum in Italy, a right recognized to all foreigners under the Italian Constitution. To remedy that violation, the Court ordered that they be allowed to enter Italy in order to lodge a formal application for international protection.
There are a number of judicial decisions stating that push-backs to Libya are illegal, including the ECHR judgment Hirsi and others v. Italy of 2012, which brought to an end Italian authorities’ practice of direct push-backs to Libya. Since then, the Italian government started resorting to indirect push-back policies (or “push-back by proxy”), financing, equipping and otherwise supporting Libyan authorities to intercept migrants at sea and take them back to Libya.
The Rome Court’s judgment confirms that this practice is illegal not only because it exposes migrants to grave risks to their bodily and psichical integrity, but also because it deprives them o the right to seek asylu, thus exposing them to the risk of refoulement to their country of origin.
For the first time, the italian judiciary ordered the government to allow the legal entry of foreign citizens in order for them to exercise their right under the Constitution to apply for asylum.