Strasbourg, 03.10.2011 – The reception centres in Lampedusa are not suitable holding facilities for irregular migrants, in particular Tunisians. In practice, they are imprisoned there without access to a judge, according to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Ad Hoc Sub-Committee on the large-scale arrival of irregular migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees on Europe’s southern shores, in its report on its visit to Lampedusa*, which was declassified today. “The reception centres should remain just that and not be turned into holding centres,” said Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EDG), Chair of the ad hoc sub-committee and of the PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population.
In this context, the ad hoc sub-committee is concerned by the tensions on the island, which have increased exponentially: arson in the main reception centre on 20 September caused serious damage and led to an upsurge in violence, leading the Italian authorities to declare Lampedusa an ‘unsafe port’. “These acts of violence are to be strongly condemned. They do not acknowledge the efforts of both the local population of Lampedusa and the Italian coastguards, who day after day do their utmost to rescue people at sea and to offer them temporary shelter on the island,” declared the members of the ad hoc sub-committee.
2011 has been marked by many tragedies in the Mediterranean, and thousands of people have lost their lives there trying to reach Europe’s shores. Due to its proximity to North Africa, Lampedusa is a key island for avoiding even greater deaths at sea. “As long as Lampedusa is regarded as an ‘unsafe port’, the crossings will be longer and therefore more dangerous and coastguard rescue operations will be slowed down by the longer distances to be travelled from Sicily. To save lives, there is an urgent need for Lampedusa to be able to take in arrivals again,” commented Mr Chope.
In the report, the ad hoc sub-committee calls on the Italian authorities to increase Lampedusa’s reception capacities as soon as possible and guarantee the rapid transfer of new arrivals to reception centres elsewhere in Italy. Appropriate reception facilities should also be provided for unaccompanied minors, ensuring that they are not detained and are kept separate from adults.
Lampedusa is still in the front line for arrivals of mixed migration flows by sea, in particular from Libya and Tunisia; the arrivals have not decreased in intensity and Italy and Europe must be ready to face up to a potentially even larger influx.