AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL OPEN LETTER TO THE COUNCIL AND THE COMMISSION ON THE OCCASION OF THE JHA INFORMAL COUNCIL ON 27-29 JANUARY IN LUXEMBOURG
Brussels 26 January, 2005
Luc Frieden, Luxembourg Minister of Justice (for the EU Presidency)
Nicolas Schmit, Luxembourg Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs and Immigration
José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission
Franco Frattini, Vice President, Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security
With EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers due to discuss the “external dimension” of EU asylum policy at their Informal Council starting on 27 January 2005, Amnesty International wishes to draw their attention to the alarming situation of asylum seekers within the EU’s own borders.
Amnesty International is concerned about a series of recent reports in EU Member States which highlight patterns of irregularity and abuse, including denial of access to asylum procedures, unlawful detention, irregular expulsions, ill-treatment and even torture of asylum seekers.
- On 13 January 2005, Amnesty International raised serious concerns after alleged reports that the Maltese armed forces, in response to a peaceful protest in a detention facility at the Safi Army Barracks, subjected scores of asylum seekers and unauthorised migrants to physical assault resulting in numerous injuries. Representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who were barred from entering the barracks shortly after the incident, described the reaction of the armed forces as “disproportionate” and “deplorable”.
- On 22 December 2004, Amnesty International condemned in the strongest possible terms allegations that Greek police officers seeking information about an ‘illegal’ Afghan national, had subjected a group of Afghan asylum seekers to interrogation techniques, which included the torture of both adults and minors.
- Only one day later, on 23 December 2004, Amnesty International expressed concerns that Libya was planning to deport dozens of refugees recognised by the UNHCR. This followed the news that Italy had deported to Libya hundreds of foreign nationals recently arrived in Crotone, in the south of Italy on 20 December 2004.
The operation in Crotone bears similarities to the one that took place in the Italian Island of Lampedusa in October 2004. At the time, Amnesty International addressed a letter to JHA Commissioner Antonio Vitorino, deploring the fact that neither the Commission nor the Council had distanced themselves in any way from this action. The Commissioner replied that the question of whether Italy had complied with its international obligations, including with the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Refugee Convention, remained a matter to be decided by Italy under its own national law.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned that serious violations of international human rights and refugee law by EU Member States remain without any response from the Council or the Commission.
Amnesty International calls on the informal JHA Council to address and clarify these matters as a matter of the greatest urgency.
Amnesty International EU Office,