Wednesday

21st Aug 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.

Open Arms may face fine in Spain 

Open Arms may face a fine of up to €901,000 for doing "search and rescue" without authorisation, but rescuing people who are shipwrecked is a legal duty, the NGO says.

EU guilty of Libya migrant 'tragedy', ICC lawsuit says

EU states' efforts to "deter" migrants from Libya have helped kill more than 14,000 people and exposed 40,000 others to "crimes against humanity", according to a lawsuit filed in The Hague on Monday.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Open Arms may face fine in Spain 
  2. Belgium's EU commission hopeful in free press row
  3. Conte turns on Salvini as Italy prepares for change
  4. Nordic-German climate action signals broader alliance
  5. The EU committee's great 'per diem' charade
  6. Spain calls for legal action against Italy on migrants
  7. Trump to meet Greenland leader in Denmark
  8. Irish border plan is 'anti-democratic', Johnson tells EU

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us