ASGI [Associazione di Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione] expresses its deep concern and great bewilderment about the agreement/recorded document sealed between the Italian and Libyan governments in Tripoli on 3 April 2012, for the purpose of enacting cooperation between the two states to counter irregular migrations.
ASGI recalls how any agreement or understanding, even between police forces, that aims to counter so-called irregular immigration between Italy and Libya and, consequently, any operation that is in any way financed using Italian funding, must be subordinated to effective respect by Libya of the fundamental rights of foreigners who are intercepted. It is clearly evident that the benchmark for such respect cannot merely comprise possible diplomatic assurances expressed by the Libyan government, but rather, it implies enacting a new and effective judicial system that complies with international standards in the field of international protection and the rights that apply to foreign workers and their families.
The adoption of measures that effectively impede actions to push people back to the southern Libyan border outside of a framework of indispensable conditions of dignity and security, appears particularly necessary. ASGI recalls that violations of the non-refoulement principle enshrined in international law and applicable even to countries that, like Libya, have not signed the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees, does not only emerge when there is a type of conduct -material and legal- that runs the risk of sending an asylum seeker back to places that are not safe; it also applies when there is a „serial“ forced return towards any other third state, or a transit state, that does not provide effective protection.
ASGI recalls that Libya has not signed the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees yet, and that, overall, it is still a country in which the protection of fundamental rights still appears absent, as has been recently reiterated by authoritative reports (see Amnesty International, in particular). Hence, the conditions do not exist on the basis of which Italy could financially and technically support Libya in „controlling flows of irregular immigration“ towards Europe and Italy, as has been done in the past by the Italian government, with very serious damage done in terms of the violence inflicted upon thousands of human beings who were arrested and deported by the Libyan police.
ASGI recalls that, also in the light of the recent sentence issued by the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg Court (Hirsi et al. vs. Italy, 23 February 2012), there is no way or form in which the Italian government may cooperate, directly or indirectly, through the provision of means and funding, in operations to counter immigration that may be undertaken by the Libyan side in international waters.
It is absolutely necessary for collaboration and cooperation between Libya and Italy, and between Libya and the European Union in general in the field of immigration, to undergo a deep shift in relation to the past, to settle upon a level that is entirely different, that is, by supporting the new Libyan authorities in order for them to adopt a legal order in the country that complies with international standards in the field of fundamental human rights.
ASGI especially deems it necessary for Libya to:
a) ensure the right to asylum in accordance with international standards, adhering to the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees and its related protocols;
b) ensure effective provisions to prevent and repress any form of torture or of inhumane and degrading treatment against anyone who is in Libyan territory, regardless of whether their residence is regular;
c) enact a radical reform of the facilities for the detention of irregular migrants, which are not reception centres at all in Libya, but rather, places of detention where all the independent international agencies have ascertained very serious and systemic violence.
It is necessary not just to bear in mind the serious events that occurred in the recent past and the guilty verdict against Italy issued by the Strasbourg court for violating fundamental articles of the Convention and for violating the protocol that forbids collective expulsions, but also that, in very recent times, people who cooperated with the International Criminal Court were arrested and convicted by the Libyan armed militias, receiving custodial sentences. As a result, ASGI strongly condemns the fact that the mentioned agreement/recorded document assumed by [interior] minister Cancellieri was not made public in spite of repeated requests submitted by various protection bodies, and asks that any proposed understanding or cooperation with Libya in the field of migration flows that constitutes a treaty that has a political nature, must be subject to a prior authorisation law approved by the Parliament in accordance with art. 80 of the Constitution.
Unofficial translation by Statewatch
„Giornata del rifugiato e accordo con la Libia: non ripetere gli errori del passato“, ASGI press statement, 20.6.12 (in Italian)