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‘The European Court of Human Rights closes the door to refoulement at sea,’ says the Chair of PACE Migration Committee

Strasbourg, 23.02.2012 – “The European Court of Human Rights has today delivered a landmark judgment which clarifies member states’ obligations regarding interception at sea,” said Giacomo Santini, the Chair of the Committee on Migration of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

“The Hirsi and others v. Italy judgment unambiguously upholds the right of persons intercepted at sea not to be pushed back and to request asylum,” he added. “In this way, the Court has closed the door to any state wanting purely and simply to push back those intercepted at sea.”

“Admittedly, it is not easy for states to manage mixed migratory flows, but the Court has made it very clear: migration management must not be at the expense of asylum law, and bilateral agreements with non-member countries do not discharge our member states from complying with their fundamental obligation of non-refoulement,” said Mr Santini.

“Fortunately, today Italy no longer engages in such practices, but it should be noted that in 2009 the bilateral agreement between Italy and Libya was applied without sufficient consideration being given to the consequences for the individuals intercepted,” the Chair concluded.