Amnesty slams Italy for 'cruelty to migrants'

Photo: Amnesty International

ROME - Italy is complicit in the abuse of migrants and refugees plucked out of Mediterranean waters and held captive in detention centres in North Africa, according to a new report published by Amnesty International.

 The publication names all European Union member states as responsible for the atrocities committed in the migrant holding chambers in Libya, but singles out Italy as bearing the biggest brunt of guilt. The authors argue that Italians have prevented migrants from crossing the Mediterranean “with little thought, or seeming care, for the consequences for those trapped in Libya as a result.”

 The overall sentiment of the report is not novel. Many governments and human rights groups have criticised the Italians for allowing the Libyan Coast Guard to use increasingly violent tactics to contain migrants on the African continent, and have argued that European governments have been giving training and equipment to Libyan naval forces and giving technical support to migration prevention groups. What is new is that Amnesty says they are in possession of footage showing an Italian ship being used to degrade and dehumanise those attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

 The report explains that “a boat donated by Italy in April 2017, the Ras Jadir, was used by the Libyan Coast Guard during a horrific incident on 6 November 2017, where their reckless actions contributed to the drowning of up to 50 people.”

 The report describes that the ship “ignored basic safety protocols,” and that those aboard the Italian Ras Jadir ship forced away a nearby NGO rescue vessel by throwing objects. The boat personnel even whipped migrants with a rope, according to Amnesty. This is not the first time that Libyan Coast Guards have been caught on camera performing dangerous and cruel acts but it is the first time that a European government vessel has been used in such a way.

 Around 70 percent of the 166,000 people fleeing to Europe in 2017 landed in Italy, research from the International Organization for Migration has documented. Italy has been used as a stopping point for refugees and immigrants as they attempt to reach the heartland of Europe. The Italian response to the influx of people has become more agitated, as the migrants already settled in camps or on the fringes of cities are usually an isolated section of society.

 Following the international outrage to images showing migrants in Libyan camps being sold as slaves, and reports released from human rights groups like Amnesty, it can be hoped that Italian authorities will respond to the criticism and refuse to support the inhumane actions of the Coast Guard.