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Italy: UNHCR Rome granted access at Lampedusa centre, but not in Libya

Briefing notes

Italy: UNHCR Rome granted access at Lampedusa centre, but not in Libya

8 October 2004

UNHCR Rome was granted access to the centre at Lampedusa on 6 October, some five days after authorization was requested to the competent authorities, and following the return by air of more than 1,000 persons to Libya. Some 500 persons were also transferred to the holding centres of Caltanissetta in Sicily and Crotone in Calabria for possible, but not yet confirmed, further processing as asylum seekers.

A UNHCR officer entered the centre at Lampedusa yesterday to carry out a careful evaluation of the methods used to reach the above results. While the evaluation is not yet completed, a preliminary conclusion is that the rushed method used to sort out the incoming persons by nationality has not allowed individual persons from all national groups concerned to claim asylum. The detailed conclusions of the evaluation will be made available to the competent authorities as soon as completed.

UNHCR also asked the authorities in Tripoli for access to the hundreds of people Italy has sent back to Libya. This request has not been granted, and UNHCR is concerned that some people who may be in need of protection will be forcibly returned to their homeland without access to any asylum procedure. Libya is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention but signed the Organisation of African Unity convention on refugees. Last month, UNHCR reminded Libya of its obligations towards potential refugees under the terms of this convention.