Ecumenical News International

WCC applauds EU court ruling on migrants' rights

February 27, 2012

The World Council of Churches (WCC) applauds the landmark ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, which held Italy responsible for violating the rights of Eritrean and Somali migrants for sending them back to Libya.

The ruling came out in the case of Hirsi Jamaa and Others vs Italy on 23 February. The court found Italy responsible for intercepting and returning a boatload of African migrants without determining whether such a decision would put their lives at risk. The court ordered Italy to pay financial compensation to each migrant in damages.
The Somali and Eritrean applicants were among two hundred individuals, who left Libya aboard three vessels in 2009 to reach the Italian coast. After being intercepted by the Italian Coastguard, the passengers were transferred to Italian military ships and taken to Tripoli, without being informed of the destination.

The WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit called the court ruling a turning point invoking national responsibilities towards migrants.
"There is an increase in the number of people who try to reach the territories of developed countries and claim asylum due to hardships they face in their home countries," said Tveit in his message.

However, he stressed that this should not be a "pretext for developed nations to undermine the protection of the rights of refugees."

Tveit commended the court decision to be in line with the principle of non-refoulement in international law, which prohibits states from returning asylum seekers to a country or territory, where their lives might be at risk.

"This landmark judgement is a sign of hope for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and migrant people around the world, who are facing great peril while attempting to reach safe or better havens", said Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the WCC Commission of Churches on International Affairs.

"The human rights of migrants and asylum seekers should always be at the forefront of considerations when dealing with migration policies," he added. (WCC)



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