Posted on March 21, 2005

UN Angry as Italy Deports Immigrants To Libya

Agence France Presse, March 18, 2005

Italy’s deportation of 180 illegal immigrants to Libya was criticised by the UN commission for refugees (UNHCR) on Friday as unsafe and lacking in transparency.

‘It is far from clear that Italy has taken the necessary precautions to ensure that it is not sending back any bona fide refugees to Libya, which cannot be considered a safe country of asylum,’ UN spokesman Ron Redmond said.

‘The UNHCR deeply regrets the continued lack of transparency on the part of both the Italian and Libyan authorities,’ he said.

Italy took the action after more than 1,000 illegal immigrants arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily earlier this week. Local police said the immigrants had arrived by wooden boats embarking from a port on the border between Libya and Tunisia.

Redmond added the UNHCR was disappointed at a lack of access to the island’s refugee centre after a request to visit the facility, which has room for 190 but was housing over 600 people, was turned down.

Last October, Italian authorities airlifted back more than 1,000 undocumented immigrants who had sailed across the Mediterranean from Libya.

Lampedusa has been a popular landing point for migrants from Africa hoping to enter Europe and a focus in Rome’s bid to tide an incessant influx of illegal migrants along its long, porous coastlines.

Rome is also pressing for the creation of holding centres in north Africa for would-be immigrants.

[Editor’s Note: For more on this story, click here.]