Sunday

20th Jan 2019

Amnesty: Italian police tortured migrants to meet EU target

  • Italy recently signed a repatriation agreement with Sudan (Photo: Ben Philabaum)

Italian police tortured asylum seekers with electric shocks and beatings, human rights group Amnesty International says.

EU pressure on Italian authorities to fingerprint every new arrival led to abuse at so-called hotspots where asylum claimants are initially identified, screened, and processed, the NGO claims in a 56-page report out on Thursday (3 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"EU leaders have driven the Italian authorities to the limits - and beyond - of what is legal," said Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International's researcher on Italy, in a statement.

Italy has four hotspots, staffed, in part, by officials from the EU's border agency Frontex and the European asylum support agency Easo.

People refusing fingerprinting can have them taken by force following EU commission rules in 2014 that called for a “proportionate use of coercion”. Last year, it threatened Rome with court action unless everyone was fingerprinted.

Those fingerprints are entered into Eurodac, an EU-level database used to identify asylum seekers, which helps determine the country responsible for processing their claims under the EU’s so-called Dublin rules on asylum.

Some Italian police officers, according to Amnesty, have resorted to beatings, sexual humiliation, and electric shocks to meet the 100 percent fingerprint target.

Of the 24 testimonies collected by the NGO, 16 involved beatings.

One 16-year old boy from Sudan said police had shocked him with stun batons.

"They gave me electricity with a stick, many times on the left leg, then on right leg, chest and belly. I was too weak, I couldn’t resist and at that point they took both my hands and put them on the machine," he said.

Another 27-year-old told the NGO that police in Sicily forced him to undress and sit on an aluminium chair.

"They held my shoulders and legs, took my testicles with pliers, and pulled twice. I can't say how painful it was," he said.

A 25-year-old woman from Eritrea said she was slapped repeatedly until she agreed to give her fingerprints.

Many others said they were sexually humiliated or beaten with sticks.

Unlawful returns to Sudan

Another 40 people from Sudan were also allegedly returned illegally in late August under a collective expulsion order without proper assessment of their asylum claims.

The order was part of a new bilateral arrangement on rapid repatriation, made public by Italian MPs last month, between Rome and Khartoum.

It includes provisions that allows the identification of people, who have not requested asylum, to take place in Sudan.

Amnesty says the deal may also lead to abuse.

One person from Sudan told the NGO that he had been arrested by Italian police. He then told a judge he didn't want to return to Sudan when asked his intentions.

"The judge asked me to tell the lawyer what I wanted, and I told the Egyptian translator that I didn’t want to go back to Sudan, as I am from Darfur. The judge said that I should go back to my country. It was very quick, I think they just wanted to deport us," he said.

Italy's new bilateral deal is also providing police inside Sudan - a state whose president is a wanted war criminal - with equipment and training.

EU washes hands of alleged migrant abuse

EU commission denied allegations of torture at Italian migrant hotspots, but said authorities can physically force people to be fingerprinted.

Opinion

EU migration policy is cruel and nonsensical

The EU is signing deals with rights-violating states who agree to take back migrants, which will aggravate poverty and conflict and undermine the bloc's strategic goals.

Eight EU states take migrants stranded on NGO boats

France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have agreed to relocate the 49 migrants stuck on two NGO boats moored, for almost three weeks, off Malta's coast.

News in Brief

  1. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  2. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  3. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden
  4. Putin opposes EU prospects of Serbia and Kosovo
  5. Tsipras launches campaign to ratify Macedonia deal
  6. US-EU meeting in doubt after Trump cancels plane
  7. Germany and China to sign pact on finance cooperation
  8. Labour divided on second Brexit vote plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Aachen treaty and Brexit endgame This WEEK
  2. Germany led way on EU rights protection
  3. How to troll the European Parliament elections
  4. MEPs in Strasbourg: everywhere but the plenary
  5. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  6. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  7. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  8. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us