Report: Italy Forcibly Returning Migrants to Greece

    Report: Italy Forcibly Returning Migrants to Greece
    Last updated Jan 21, 2023
    Image credit: euractiv


    • A joint investigation by Lighthouse Reports in collaboration with Al Jazeera and other media partners revealed this week that Italy has engaged in illegal "pushbacks," unlawfully jailing asylum seekers on private ships and returning them to their origin.[1]
    • Researchers identified makeshift prisons on three separate commercial ferries operated by Attica Group after verifying asylum seekers' testimony, photos, and video evidence through on-site research and confirmation from crew members. Attica insisted its ships comply with national and international laws.[2]
    • This comes as nationals from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria claimed to have been detained without formal authorization and held in dark metal boxes and small rooms without food or water before they were sent back to Greece after being caught trying to reach Italy’s Adriatic ports.[3]
    • According to Greek official data accessed by investigators, over 200 people were deported from Italy to Greece over the past two years, but some rights groups believe that some cases aren't documented.[4]
    • Under an agreement signed by the two European countries in 1999, Italy is allowed to return undocumented migrants and refugees to Greece, though not asylum seekers, with the European Court of Human Rights in 2014 ruling "pushbacks" illegal.[3]
    • EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, who took over for Fabrice Leggeri after EU watchdog OLAF found coverups of pushbacks between 2020 and 2021, said that the best way to go forward is for EU governments to agree on and implement the Pact on Migration and Asylum.[2]


    Left narrative

    EU laws against pushbacks have been established for decades to protect vulnerable asylum seekers. Despite this, EU agencies, as well as the governments of Greece and Italy, have engaged in the practice of "don't ask, don't tell," which has led to the egregious treatment of migrants fleeing war and seeking refuge in Europe. All EU countries and entities need to strengthen their monitoring of those looking to break international law.

    Right narrative

    While the details of this report are alarming and must be investigated, it points to a larger problem: As a main port of entry, Italy is one of the EU countries that receives the most migrants — including from safe African countries, as the result of people smuggling. This is no longer sustainable. Serious thought should be given to Meloni's long-term solution to the migration crisis: establish European asylum application centers in North Africa to deter illegal crossings in the first place. But until this can be done, other EU countries must step up.

    Cynical narrative

    While all eyes are now on Italy, the West, with its neocolonial policies and imperial logic, is responsible as a whole for the ongoing migration and refugee crisis and the rise of populist and right-wing governments in Europe, such as that of Giorgia Meloni in Italy. It must not be ignored that, ultimately, it was NATO's "humanitarian intervention" that destroyed African countries and opened Pandora's box.

    Political split



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