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Italy: UNHCR clarifies its Lampedusa position ahead of EU debate

Briefing notes

Italy: UNHCR clarifies its Lampedusa position ahead of EU debate

15 April 2005

Yesterday, just before the start of a debate in the European Parliament on a draft resolution on the recent expulsion to Libya of people from the Italian island of Lampedusa, UNHCR felt obliged to circulate a brief statement to European Members of Parliament, clarifying our position.

We did this in response to another note that had been sent to MEPs the previous day which, among other things, misrepresented discussions that took place between UNHCR and the Permanent Mission of Italy here in Geneva on 6 April. The note circulated in Brussels implied that at that meeting UNHCR had retracted the concerns about the Lampedusa episode that it had expressed publicly on March 18. We recognized that our concerns may not have always been accurately reported, but made it clear that we stood by our March 18 comments and we still do today.

We would welcome constructive discussions about how to avoid similar problems and concerns arising again, both in Italy and at the wider European level. We also hope for further support from the European Union to help build asylum systems in North Africa. This is a long-term process but will be to everyone's advantage