ECHR looks at Italy’s asylum policy

07 April 2010 by Linawati Sidarto

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg is considering a landmark lawsuit filed by 23 asylum seekers against the Italian state, which in the past year has intercepted boats filled with potential migrants in international waters and shipping them off to Libya.

“It’s the first time that the procedure which countries like Italy and Spain, and sometimes Greece, apply comes before the ECHR,” said Thomas Spijkerboer, migration law professor at Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit. “The stakes are high. This is an incredibly important case.”

Since May 2009, Italy has made it a procedure to intercept in international waters boats filled with migrants, coming mostly from African countries, who aim to reach Italian shores. These migrants are then brought to Libya.

The United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR said that in two months since Italy introduced its “new push-back policy,” at least 900 people trying to reach Italy by sea have been sent to other countries, mainly to Libya.

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