Treatment of migrants on Lampedusa may see EU action against Italy

The European Union is threatening Italy with legal action as video reveals the hosing down naked of African migrants at a Lampedusa detention centred believed to have scabies.

Italy may face EU legal action for its 'appalling and unacceptable' treatment of African migrants

Footage of migrants forced to strip and get sprayed down with disinfectants on the island of Lampedusa 0:43

The European Commission threatened Italy with legal action on Wednesday for possible breaches of the EU's rules on granting asylum, over its treatment of migrants arriving from Africa on the island of Lampedusa.
 
A video showing migrants standing naked in the cold while being sprayed for scabies at a detention centre stirred outrage in Italy on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people have died in recent months as refugees seek to enter the European Union by boat through Lampedusa, an Italian island south of Sicily, putting the EU's migration policies in the spotlight.
 
EU leaders are due to discuss migration at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, in response to the high number of migrants drowning in recent months.
 

'The images we have seen from the detention centre in Lampedusa are appalling and unacceptable-  EU home affairs chief, Cecilia Malmstrom

The European Commission's home affairs chief, Cecilia Malmstrom, said the EU executive was investigating Italian 
practices in detention centres.

"The images we have seen from the detention centre in Lampedusa are appalling and unacceptable," she said. "We will 
not hesitate to launch an infringement procedure to make sure EU standards and obligations are fully respected."
 
The Commission could take Italy, which bears the brunt of illegal immigration from North Africa, to court over its 
adherence to EU rules on acceptable conditions in detention centres, among other issues, officials said.

Soldiers carry the body of a victim of a shipwreck in Lampedusa harbor October 6, 2013. The boat sank last off the coast of Sicily is one of the worst such disasters to hit people fleeing violence, poverty and oppression in Africa. About 500 migrants were packed onto the boat, which caught fire and capsized , according to survivors. (Antonio Parrinello/Reuters)

At the summit later this week, EU leaders will weigh proposals by the Commission to address the issue, including 
possible changes in asylum rules that would allow people to ask for protection before actually reaching European soil.
 
That could make it easier for them to seek asylum.
 
The Commision has also called on EU governments to give more  support to the bloc's Frontex border agency.

Much of the debate within the bloc centres on whether it would be better to focus border control efforts on rescuing 
migrants from the Mediterranean or on strengthening preventive measures and cooperation with countries in North Africa.
 
Some EU countries, including Denmark, Luxembourg, Greece and Spain, have cautioned that boosting EU search and rescue operations could persuade more migrants to attempt the dangerous crossing through the Mediterranean.
 
Southern EU states including Italy have asked for what they see as a fairer spread of the burden of dealing with migrants and more EU funding, but the bloc is divided on how to deal with the problem. Northern EU states argue they already grant asylum to more people than their southern neighbours.
 
More than 7,000 migrants may have perished at sea or while crossing deserts trying to reach a safe haven this year, 
believed to be the deadliest on record, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.