Italy 2011

Racist and xenophobic violence and hostile political discourse remained a pressing problem. In January, 11 African seasonal migrant workers were seriously injured in drive-by shootings and mob attacks over a three day period in Rosarno, Calabria. At least 10 other migrants, 10 law enforcement officers, and 14 local residents required medical treatment. Over 1,000 migrants left the town following the violence, most of them evacuated by law enforcement personnel. Numerous countries expressed concern about racism and xenophobia in Italy during its Universal Periodic Review at February’s UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Roma and Sinti continued to suffer high levels of discrimination, poverty, and deplorable living conditions in both authorized and unauthorized camps. Eastern European Roma, primarily from Romania and living in informal settlements, faced forced evictions and financial inducements to return to their countries of origin. In October the Council of Europe European Committee of Social Rights published conclusions from June condemning Italy for discrimination against Roma in housing and access to justice, economic, and social assistance. Italy continued to deport terrorism suspects to Tunisia, including Mohamed Mannai in May, despite the risk of ill treatment, persistent interventions from the ECtHR, and condemnation by the Council of Europe. A June resolution from its Committee of Ministers reiterated Italy’s obligation to comply with European Court decisions. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture said in an April report that Italy violated the prohibition on refoulement when it intercepted boat migrants attempting to reach Italy and returned them to Libya without screening for people needing international protection. Two Italian officials faced prosecution in a Sicily court for their role in the return of 75 people to Libya on an Italian Financial Police boat in August 2009. Italy failed to offer asylum to approximately a dozen Eritreans it had pushed back to Libya in 2009, where alongside hundreds of other Eritreans they suffered illtreatment, abusive detention, and threat of deportation to Eritrea. In May a Genova appeals court convicted 25 out of 29 police officers for violence against demonstrators at the 2001 G8 summit, overturning acquittals by a lower court. The Interior Ministry said it would not suspend the officers. Appeals against the May decision are pending at this writing.

Italy 2012

Over 55,000 boat migrants, including at least 3,700 unaccompanied children, reached Lampedusa, a small Italian island in the Mediterranean, from North Africa in the first seven months of the year. Reception centers on Lampedusa were periodically overwhelmed, with enduring concerns about the procession of asylum claims and conditions there and elsewhere in Italy, including for women and unaccompanied children. A fire allegedly set by Tunisians destroyed most of a detention center on the island in September, leading the government to declare Lampedusa an unsafe port. International and national organizations, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and PACE, expressed concern that this could delay rescue operations. As many as 12,000 Tunisians who arrived before April 5, when Italy signed a bilateral agreement with the new Tunisian government, received temporary visas. Those who arrived later were detained, pending deportation, in poor conditions following procedures that lacked sufficient safeguards. Hundreds spent up to five days in detention on boats after the fire at the Lampedusa center before being transferred to other detention facilities or deported. In August an Italian navy ship intercepted around 100 migrants in international waters and transferred them to a Tunisian vessel, in what appeared to be an unlawful pushback.All those arriving from Libya, primarily sub-Saharan Africans, applied for asylum, with many placed in specially created reception centers. In August the Italian interior minister estimated that 35 to 40 percent would be granted asylum, with the rest ordered to leave Italy or forcibly removed. Italy signed an immigration cooperation agreement with the Libyan National Transitional Council in June, including the repatriation of undocumented migrants. At this writing there had been no returns to Libya in 2011. In June the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR heard a case involving the pushback by Italy of 24 Africans to Libya in May 2009, but had yet to rule at this writing. In September an appeals court acquitted two Tunisian boat captains of charges stemming from their 2007 rescue and transfer to Lampedusa of 44 boat migrants in defiance of Italian authorities. The ECtHR ruled in April that Italy’s 2009 expulsion of Ali Ben Sassi Toumi to Tunisia, in breach of its order to suspend removal, had violated the ban on returns to risk of torture, rejecting Italy’s argument that diplomatic assurances from Tunisia mitigated the risk. In July the lower house of parliament rejected draft legislation that would have extended hate crime provisions to protect LGBT persons. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women communicated in July its deep concern about a range of issues affecting women in Italy, including multiple forms of discrimination and vulnerability to violence facing migrant and Roma women in particular. In September Hammarberg expressed concern about racist and xenophobic political discourse, particularly targeting Roma and Sinti, and called on Italian authorities to improve their response to racist violence. He criticized ongoing emergency powers leading to serial evictions of Roma camps. In October the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about discrimination against Roma children in enjoyment of the rights to health, education, and an adequate standard of living, as well as reports of overrepresentation of Roma and foreign children in the juvenile justice system.