A Rome court has ruled that 14 Eritreans who were pushed back to Libya ten years ago have the right to enter Italy and request international protection. The former prime minister and defense minister have been ordered to pay 210,000 euros in damages.
Fourteen Eritreans who were pushed back to Libya on July 1, 2009 by an Italian navy ship, which had intercepted them a few miles from Lampedusa, have the right to enter Italy and request asylum. That decision was made Tuesday by a Rome civil court after a case was filed by Amnesty International in collaboration with the immigration rights group ASGI and a team of lawyers.
The prime minister and defense minister at that time have been ordered to pay 15,000 euros in damages to each of the Eritreans.
Amnesty and ASGI said the court ruling was a "historic decision."
According to the two organizations, the decision was based on Article 10, Paragraph 3, of the Italian constitution. This law grants foreigners the right to asylum, which must be applicable even when they are outside state territory.
European court: Pushbacks illegal
Amnesty and ASGI noted that pushbacks had already been ruled illegitimate by the European Court for Human Rights in February 2012. Back then, the court ruled
in favor of eleven Somali nationals and thirteen Eritrean nationals who had been pushed back to Libya in May 2009. Italy was sentenced for not complying with article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights concerning degrading treatment and torture, and for violating a prohibition on collective expulsions and the rights of victims to file an appeal with Italian courts. The judges ordered the Italian state to pay each of the plaintiffs 15,000 euros.
Amnesty and ASGI said, despite the European human rights court's decision against Italy, many asylum seekers were still waiting for proper compensation and did not have the possibility to access a form of protection.
2009: 'Pushback season'
Between May and November 2009, there were at least eleven pushback incidents and almost 1,000 migrants were taken back to Libya after accords had been signed between Libya and Italy's government, which at the time was led by Silvio Berlusconi.