European rights chief queries Italy over new asylum rules
February 07 2019 05:16 PM
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic

Dpa/Paris

Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatovic has asked Italy to clarify how it will protect the rights of people affected by controversial new asylum rules.

In a letter made public Thursday, Mijatovic said she was concerned at reports that the rules could put migrants who have been allowed to stay in Italy on humanitarian grounds at risk of homelessness.

The rules were pushed through in November by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a migration hardliner and leader of the far-right League party.

Italian human rights lawyers and other rights groups have published official documents showing migrant accommodation centres being told to expel people with the humanitarian permits, which the new rules have effectively abolished.

In her letter to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Mijatovic also raised the controversial sudden evacuation of migrants from an accommodation centre near Rome last month.

The move reportedly led to residents being moved hundreds of kilometres away without warning and children being suddenly separated from schoolmates and friends.

Mijatovic praised local authorities and civil society in Castelnuovo di Porto for their efforts to continue to host families and children in the area.

Mijatovic promised Conte that she would continue to press other European countries to show more solidarity with Italy and other countries of first arrival in dealing with migration flows.

But she said she was ‘deeply concerned’ about measures ‘hampering and criminalizing the work of NGOs [non-governmental organizations] who play a crucial role in saving lives at sea.’  The European rights chief also appeared to criticize the EU and Italian strategy of backing Libyan authorities to intercept migrant boats and bring those on board back to detention in Libya.

She said she was concerned about ‘relinquishing responsibility for search and rescue operations to authorities which appear unwilling or unable to protect rescued migrants from torture or inhumane or degrading treatment.’



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