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Cap Anamur boat: UNHCR expresses strong concern to Italian authorities

Briefing notes

Cap Anamur boat: UNHCR expresses strong concern to Italian authorities

23 July 2004

UNHCR has written today to the Italian authorities criticizing the process that led up to yesterday's expulsion from Italy to Ghana of 25 asylum seekers from the group of 37 rescued by the German NGO Cap Anamur. UNHCR has expressed its strong concern over apparent disregard for accepted international and European standards and for fundamental elements of due process.

While UNHCR applauded the decision of the Italian Government to permit disembarkation of the 37 on humanitarian grounds, we regret serious flaws in the subsequent handling of the asylum claims. We also feel there are still serious question marks surrounding the conduct of Cap Anamur at the outset of this affair.

The whole unfortunate episode - which at various points threatened to embroil three states (Italy, Germany and Malta) in complex legal disputes - underlines the clear need for the European Union to adopt measures to ensure better burden-sharing among states. This is particularly the case where there may be different interpretations of state responsibility, or where a particular problem involving asylum seekers or refugees falls disproportionately on the shoulders of one particular EU country. For the most part these are likely to be the Mediterranean states, such as Italy, and the EU border states in Central Europe. UNHCR recently made a set of far-reaching proposals to the EU which attempt to grapple with some of these difficulties.