Mittwoch, 23. Dezember 2015

Hotspot and deferred refusals: the Lampedusa-model

In Agrigento, the situation regarding “refoulement” and expulsion of asylum seekers is getting worryingly high. Since September, the Agrigento Police Station (Questura) has been issuing deferred decisions on refusal of entry towards migrants coming from Gambia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Nigeria, Ghana, Pakistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.
The reasons are different. Generally, as confirmed by the vice Prefect in a meeting held in Agrigento on December, 3rd, the migrants who are not part of the reception system because of lack of capacity in accommodation centres, have been rejected without getting any information regarding the procedures for the recognition of international protection. Moreover, the deferred refusals are systematically notified to citizens coming from North African countries. 

All migrants who got the form for refusal of entry are transferred from the Lampedusa hotspot. There, they have been at their arrival pre-identified and have become a Questionnaire, so called “foglio notizie” (news-sheet), through which law-enforcement agents, supported by Frontex officials, undertake a first screening and make a distinction between potential asylum seekers and so called economic migrants, without giving them any information regarding their right to seek asylum, as intended in the Article 2 of the Consolidation Act on Immigration and in the Articles 10 and 10 bis of Decree no. 25/2008. The migrants are encouraged to sign the Questionnaire, issued in a language they don’t understand and without receiving any copy thereof. A rejected migrant from Ghana told his lawyer he had declared as reason for escaping his country of origin his involvement in inter-ethnic clashes and the resulting fear to come back to his homeland.

For several days now, it appears that the representative of the UNHCR is providing information about asylum procedures in collective and verbal form to the migrants who arrive in Lampedusa, before they start with the police procedures. The migrants who are considered to be potential asylum seekers are then lead to the Hub of Villa Sikania (Siculiana), where they can seek international protection. The fate of those migrants who are classified as “economic” is different. To those who are intended to be rejected is notified the Decree on board the ferry to Porto Empedocle and, once arrived at destination, they are left by the Police in the late evening near the Agrigento train station. These people remain outside the reception system and, because of the lack of places in dormitories, they live on the streets and are also prevented from accessing a legal defence, as they lack economic means and information about the territory’s services. Some rejected Gambian migrants referred to their lawyers they have expressed their will to apply for asylum to the police officers who escorted them on the ferry, without any result. Others, who received the form for refusal of entry with the inscription “refuse to sign”, have denied their refusal.

Some Pakistanis coming from Agrigento turned to the Migration Office of the Questura of Palermo and to the Commissariat of Licana to present the asylum application, but the officials of the regional administration have refused to accept it, as the Questura of Agrigento has rejected them.

A lawyer of other rejected migrants has forwarded by certified mail (PEC) the clear expression of the migrant’s intentions to seek international protection at the Migration Office in Agrigento without getting any answer.

Finally, it should also be noted that, among the rejected migrants of various nationalities, there are also different vulnerable persons: unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, individuals suffering from serious diseases, potential asylum seekers, victims of torture and violence suffered in Libya or in their country of origin.

Lastly, the Questura of Agrigento is rejecting all migrants who refuse to submit to the finger-printing verification, after being illegitimately held for weeks inside the hotspot of Lampedusa.

Following the numerous arrivals of the last days, the number of rejected migrants continues to grow.
We also report another unlawful approach from the Prefecture of Agrigento concerning the expulsion of Asylum seekers in the time interval within they are still allowed to contest the denial they have been notified. This would only happen in cases of refusal for evident groundlessness.

In the last months the Territorial Commission of Agrigento has taken several measures of denial of international protection as “clearly unfounded”, pursuant to Art. 32 paragraph 1, letter b) bis of Decree 25/2008. Following regulatory changes made with Decree 142/2015, in the case the application is manifestly unfounded, the period for appeal shall be reduced to 15 days, but during this period, the asylum seeker can in no way be expelled. Such unlawful expulsions – as for the Italian law the migrants are to be considered as asylum seekers until the time for an appeal against the decision to reject the application for international protection has expired, as well as during the whole judicial phase – are becoming a way to release places in accommodation centres and to limit the right of defence. Under the Prefecture’s direct instructions, with the threat of severe administrative penalties (judging by what some professionals of reception centres of the Province have told us), all managing bodies have been instructed to immediately send away all rejected asylum applicants.

Last but not least, the Territorial Commission of Agrigento has rejected in the last months some asylum applications by unaccompanied minors as manifestly unfounded, with the absurd motivation they will soon become of legal age.

Legal Department Ass. Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation by Elena Baggetta