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European Court of Human Rights: Unlawful detention of Tunisian migrants in Italian reception centre

On 1 September 2015, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a Chamber judgment in the case of Khlaifia and Others v. Italy, which condemned Italy for the violation of Article 5.1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights; Article 5.2 (right to be informed promptly of the charge against the applicants); Article 5.4 (right to a speedy decision by a court on the lawfulness of detention); and Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 (prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens).

In particular, the present case involved three Tunisian nationals who left Tunis by sea on 16 and 17 September 2011. Then, they were intercepted by Italian authority and led in a local reception centre of the island of Lampedusa. According to the applicants, the living conditions in the centre were appalling. They were allowed no contact with outside. On 20 September the applicants evaded. They were finally arrested by the police and held for four days on two ships in Palermo’s harbor. Almost 10 days after their arrivals in Italy, they were expelled to Tunis.

The Court held that the applicants' detention had been unlawful. They had not been notified of the reasons for their detention, for which there was no statutory basis, and had been unable to challenge it. Concerning their conditions of detention in the reception centre, the Court concluded that the applicants’ conditions of detention had diminished their human dignity. 

The Court further considered that the applicants had suffered a collective expulsion, as their refoulement decisions did not refer to their personal situation. Lastly, the Court considered that the applicants had not benefited from any effective remedy in order to lodge a complaint, because under Article 13, if a remedy was to be deemed effective in the case of a collective expulsion it had to have automatic suspensive effect – which in this case meant that it should have suspended the refoulement to Tunisia – and that had not been the case

Therefore, according to Article 41 (Just satisfaction), the Court held that Italy has to pay each applicant 10,000 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 9,344.51 euro in respect of costs and expenses.

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ECHR Migrations

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