PRO ASYL and the Greek Coun­cil for Refu­gees publish report on arbi­tra­ry read­mis­si­ons from Ita­li­an ports to Greece.

3 July 2012. Thou­sands of pro­tec­tion see­kers try to cross the sea from Greece to Ita­ly every year. If they mana­ge to arri­ve in Ita­ly howe­ver, they are imme­dia­te­ly retur­ned to Greece wit­hout any indi­vi­du­al assess­ment of their cases, wit­hout any legal safe­guards, the report HUMAN CARGO – Arbi­tra­ry read­mis­si­ons from the Ita­li­an sea ports to Greece by PRO ASYL and the Greek Coun­cil for Refu­gees has revealed.

Just like most other EU Mem­ber Sta­tes, Ita­ly has offi­ci­al­ly stop­ped retur­ning peo­p­le to Greece under the Dub­lin sys­tem, sin­ce the Euro­pean Court for Human Rights in Janu­ary 2011 deter­mi­ned Greece not to be a safe coun­try for asyl­um see­kers. Howe­ver the­se mas­si­ve arbi­tra­ry read­mis­si­ons to Greece are car­ri­ed out in a sys­te­ma­tic way in direct vio­la­ti­on of that ruling. 

Almost all read­mit­ted peo­p­le inter­view­ed for this rese­arch were home­l­ess befo­re and after their read­mis­si­on to Greece. They had no access to food, water, sani­ta­ry infra­struc­tu­re or to medi­cal care. Some of them were also vic­tims of racist and/or poli­ce vio­lence in Patras or Athens.

In two of the descri­bed cases, minors who were read­mit­ted were detai­ned for 20 days in Igo­u­me­nit­sa mixed detenti­on cent­re at the port, until being trans­fer­red to a spe­cial recep­ti­on faci­li­ty for unac­com­pa­nied minors in Konitsa.

Deni­al of access to inter­na­tio­nal protection

None of the peo­p­le read­mit­ted ever had a rea­li­stic chan­ce to have their request for asyl­um regis­tered. Alle­gedly, in most of the cases the Ita­li­an aut­ho­ri­ties did not ask any ques­ti­ons of the migrants; not even their names. Others say that they expli­cit­ly told the poli­ce that they wan­ted to app­ly for asyl­um, but the aut­ho­ri­ties did not regis­ter their claim.

Lack of pro­tec­tion for unac­com­pa­nied children

The report finds that unac­com­pa­nied child­ren are regis­tered by the Ita­li­an aut­ho­ri­ties as adults. In one case, an around 10 year old Afghan boy was regis­tered as being 18 years old and was read­mit­ted from Bari to Patras. 

The­re have also been docu­men­ted cases of minors sepa­ra­ted from their fami­ly by the read­mis­si­on pro­ce­du­re. In one case, two alle­ged under-age brot­hers were sepa­ra­ted. One was read­mit­ted as an adult and the other stay­ed in Italy.

Ill-tre­at­ment by Ita­li­an officers

Inter­view­ees descri­bed being mis­hand­led by Ita­li­an offi­cers, slap­ped, pun­ched and kicked in the poli­ce sta­ti­on whe­re they were taken in order to be fin­ger­prin­ted, on their way back to the ship and/or insi­de the pro­vi­sio­nal detenti­on places of the ship.

Inhu­man and degra­ding detenti­on con­di­ti­ons on board

In almost all cases, tho­se to be read­mit­ted were held in a cabin used as a tem­po­ra­ry detenti­on cell that was made available by the ship com­pa­nies. In other cases, peo­p­le were kept in metal sto­rage rooms, facing extre­me wea­ther con­di­ti­ons during win­ter and sum­mer. The read­mit­ted per­sons were not always offe­red food and water or had access to the toi­let and some­ti­mes had to uri­na­te in pla­s­tic bottles.

Arbi­tra­ry read­mis­si­ons must stop immediately 

The fin­dings of this report show that Ita­ly is not ful­fil­ling its obli­ga­ti­ons under inter­na­tio­nal and Euro­pean law. The prac­ti­ces of Ita­li­an aut­ho­ri­ties con­sti­tu­te a breach of the EU Char­ter of Fun­da­men­tal Rights, the UN Con­ven­ti­on of the Rights of the Child, the Euro­pean Con­ven­ti­on on Human Rights and the 1951 Refu­gee Convention.

PRO ASYL and the Greek Coun­cil of Refu­gees urge the Ita­li­an govern­ment to ensu­re access to asyl­um pro­ce­du­res for tho­se arri­ving at Italy’s sea ports. The poli­cy of arbi­tra­ry read­mis­si­on to Greece must stop immediately.

We call upon Euro­pean insti­tu­ti­ons to take imme­dia­te action in respon­se to the human rights vio­la­ti­ons occur­ring in the­se Ita­li­an Ports. The Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, the Com­mis­sio­ner for Human Rights of the Coun­cil of Euro­pe, its Com­mit­tee for the Pre­ven­ti­on of Tor­tu­re (CPT) and also the EU mem­ber sta­tes can­not accept the vio­la­ti­on of inter­na­tio­nal law by one of their members.


The report is based on tes­ti­mo­nies of more than 50 per­sons that have been pushed back from Ita­ly to Greece in this way at least once.


Greek Coun­cil for Refu­gees (GCR)
Panos Chris­to­dou­lou, GCR Direc­tor
Pho­ne: + 30 210 3800 990


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