As far back as January 2011, Italian authorities have shunned the international standards of treating asylum seekers from Greece. Emigrants attempting to escape the dire economic situation of Greece show up on the Eastern coast of Italy only to be sent back on ferries within hours. This practice, which has allegedly continued for year, has received criticism from groups like the Human Rights Watch.
Part of the increased scrutiny regarding refugees from Greece concerns the inhospitable and dysfunctional conditions of Grecian detention facilities where these emigrants are being returned. Emigrants are returned to a country with law enforcement abuse with deplorable holding facilities and inadequate food.
In many cases, the Italian border authorities turn away emigrants without being interviewed or screened for asylum, a clear breach of Italy’s legal obligations. In the case of children, Italian and international law require that children are given access to a guardian or social services. Sending any migrant back to Greece without an opportunity to file asylum claims also violates Italian and international legal obligations.
The special case of the deteriorating conditions of Greece’s asylum system has led to European court rulings prohibiting the return of emigrants to Greece. Under Dublin II regulation requires that the first EU country of entry process an asylum claim. Further, many nongovernmental organizations formed to assist refugees are also being denied access to those from Greece who wish to apply for asylum.
The European Court of Human Rights will soon issue a judgment involving the 2009 summary return of 25 adults and 10 children who contend that the return violated their right to life and to protection against torture or ill treatment. It remains to be seen whether the judgment will have an impact on the behavior of Italian border authorities.
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