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PACE President calls for greater support for Italy in dealing with boat people

At the end of a four-day visit to Rome and Sicily, Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has praised Italy for its role as a committed European state and partner.

“Italy is an example for promoting the human rights and democratic standards of the Council of Europe,” Ms Brasseur said. She highlighted in particular the country’s contribution on constitutional reform in Council of Europe member States through the work of the Venice Commission for Democracy through Law, its efforts to tackle violence against women and its catalytic role in re-launching the European Social Charter as a means of protecting social rights in Europe.

During her visit to Sicily, Ms Brasseur focussed on migration issues. “Italy faces a particular challenge as a front-line state in the mixed flows of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees,” she said. “While problems persist, including in terms of delays in registering and processing persons arriving by boat on Italy’s shores, it is clear that Italy cannot stand alone in its efforts to deal with wave after wave of boat people. Greater responsibility-sharing is needed with other European countries.”

The President highlighted, in this context, that there was a need to change the Dublin system which, she said, “is not only antiquated and unable to deal with today’s challenges but is also unfair for first entry countries and for asylum seekers alike.”

While in Sicily, Ms Brasseur visited accommodation centres for unaccompanied minors and a centre for asylum seekers in Mineo. “It was clear to me that asylum seekers accommodated in Mineo were well provided for, but the time they have to wait in the centre for a decision on their asylum claims remains too long. I was pleased to note the commitment and efforts of all those involved, governmental and non-governmental, in looking after the asylum seekers,” she said. “I was also heartened by the authorities’ intention to continue their policy of reducing the size of the different centres in general, and the decentralisation of these across Italy.”

During her visit to Rome, Ms Brasseur also highlighted two other important issues needing urgent attention. “Recent corruption cases confirm that the fight against corruption must continue to be top of the agenda for all political forces,” she said. “Corruption undermines the foundation of our societies and has a detrimental effect on citizens’ trust. The fight against it is a never-ending task.”

The second issue she highlighted was the excessive length of judicial proceedings. “Notwithstanding recent progress, this still remains a major problem for Italy, including under the European Convention on Human Rights,” she said. She also raised in a number of meetings the issue of implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and encouraged the setting up of a parliamentary body to deal with this matter.

The President expressed her gratitude to the Italian Parliament and its delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly – as well as the government and local authorities in Sicily – for their openness and hospitality in organising her visit. As well as high-level meetings at government and parliamentary level, she also met local authorities and NGOs, participated in a joint hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, and gave a lecture at the Faculty of Law of the University of Catania.