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ASGI and ARCI appeal against mass deportation to Sudan deemed admissible by the ECtHR
12.1.18
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At a press conference in Rome's Federation of the Italian Press (FNSI) on 11 January 2018, lawyers of the Associazione Studi Giuridici sull'Immigrazione (ASGI) and members of ARCI (vice-president Filippo Miraglia and Sara Prestianni, in charge of its observatory on externalization), spoke about the case they brought before the European Court of Human Rights, after it was admitted. Lawyer Salvatore Fachile, who submitted the case, noted that there were numerous violations of the ECHR regarding the expulsion of over forty Sudanese citizens from Italy in August 2016, and that the case was submitted following a mission the following December by ASGI lawyers alongside Sara Prestianni and some MEPs during which they met five of the deportees. Their interviews did not focus too much on their treatment after their return to Sudan in order to protect the applicants from any possible reprisals, a decision which appeared to be justified after even the delegation were subjected to an "unpleasant" interrogation, Prestianni noted. Hence, it focused on the treatment they received in Italy, which is the key issue in the complaint.

The deportation had followed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Italian Interior Ministry's public security department and the Sudanese police in early August 2016 (see below), which envisaged fast-track deportations with minimal guarantees. The Sudanese nationals were rounded up in police operations in the vicinity of Ventimiglia (in Liguria, near the French border) which expressly targeted them, before they were transferred to the southern city of Taranto in Apulia.

The violations which were hypothesized include Art.3 on the prohibition of torture, violation of the principle of non-refoulement, arbitrary detention with the impossibility of them being heard by a judge to oppose their detention and, significantly, a breach of art. 14 of the ECHR which prohibits discrimination was also alleged in relation to the police raids. If such a claim were upheld by the ECtHR, it could also be applied in other cases involving large-scale round-ups which have taken place, which included a circular issued to police stations across Italy to target Nigerians, followed by deportations, in January 2017 (see "previous coverage" link below).

Even more significant, seven of the expellees resisted their deportation on board the flight (resulting in them being disembarked) and were eventually granted refugee status, making it appear likely that their fellow nationals may have also succeeded if they had been given the chance to apply, which they tried to do, given the conditions which exist in Sudan. Both the agreement and deportations are highly questionable in view of the fact that Sudan's head of state Al Bashir is sought by the International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes in relation to the regime's interventions in Darfur, where several of the deportees hailed from.

Moreover, Prestianni observed that the Sudanese are working to strengthen their control of the border with Eritrea (the country from which most of the people who arrive in Italy and may benefit from relocation to other EU countries come from due to the arbirary 75% acceptance rate for asylum requests used to exclude citizens from most nationalities from initial access to asylum procedures) using special paramilitary forces.

These include the Janjawid militias supporting the government which have been responsible for abuses in the Darfur region, and Prestianni noted that EU agreements to reinforce capabilities to counter irregular migration include providing resources and technical support for forces which have been responsible for serious human rights violations in the past.

Lawyer Giulia Crescini provided details of a case that she has brought before the TAR (regional administrative court) in relation to funds made available for cooperation and development which are now being diverted towards activities to train, fund and provide resources for the Libyan coast guard. Filippo Miraglia highlighted that the Italian government's activities in north Africa and the EU's interference smack of neo-colonialism and contradict plans that are underway in Africa to promote freedom of movement, adding that in spite of funding for supposedly humanitarian reasons made available to UNHCR and the IOM, the situation in Libyan detention camps is tragic, including people being tortured, mistreated and sold. Miraglia agreed, highlighting the pioneering role that Italy is playing in the context of externalization, alongside the pressure that the Italian government is exerting on migrant support network through its efforts to criminalise solidarity.

In the meantime, the Belgian government is under pressure after evidence emerged of expulsions to Sudan being carried out, placing minister Theo Francken in the spotlight. The following are an article by CIRÉ (Coordination et Initiative pour Réfugiés et Étrangers) on this issue (in French):

"La torture et le risque de traitements inhumaines et dégradants" (Torture and the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment), 12.1.2018,

and a report from the Belgian national television (RTBF) which tells of post-deportation harrassment, "Un Soudanais expulsé témoigne" (Testimony of an expelled Sudanese man), 11.1.2018,

Previous Statewatch coverage

ASGI/Italy: Memorandum of understanding between the Italian public security department and the Sudanese national police. A reading guide.

Italy: Police instructed to target Nigerians…- There's a charter plane to fill and interviews with Nigerian authorities have already been agreed, 2.1.17

Italy: Mass discrimination based on nationality and human rights violations - Nigerian refugees and trafficking victims deported from Rome, March 2016,

9th report on relocation and resettlement: Mystification and selective use of data in effort to present a dysfunctional approach as "sustainable", March 2017,

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