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Italy pays for Libya’s deportations and detention centres

An interview with Tana De Zulueta, vice president of the human right commission at EU Council

12 maggio 2005

From August 2003 to December 2004 47 charter flights left from Libya towards other African countries. About 6,000 citizens were deported without the assessment of their real nationality, they were deported thanks to the funding of Italian government as provided for by the agreement signed past August by Italy and Libya, which remains a secret to all.
Deportations are a consequence of arrests and arbitrary detentions inside operative centres in Libya, one of which was financed by Italian government in 2003.
This is just one of the many pieces of news that became public with EU dossier. EU in fact sent 21 technicians to Libya in November and December 2004.
Italy sent many things to Libya and it also sent 1,000 bags for corpses in addition to boats, satellite’s kits, binoculars, scuba diving’s jackets, fingerprinting kits, etc.
Tana De Zulueta, vice president of the human right commission at EU Council, asked that Italian government refers to its own parliament. This Greens senator signed many questioning negotiates that all asked the government to explain what kind of agreement it signed with Gheddafi, whom Berlusconi calls “freedom leader”.
We interviewed De Zulueta in order to have her comment upon the latest pieces of news that the document publishes. We also asked her to explain us how she got to know details about this secret agreement.

Answer - The EU dossier explains that Italian government is obliged to refer to Parliament about such agreements, as we many times asked. The dossier says that Italy is very updated in the delocalisation of politics concerning immigration management and this happens in the disrespect of human rights. What cannot be done in Europe is brought outside: Italy has other countries do what it cannot possibly do. This is the most serious thing that the dossier refers of. Italy has financed the construction of detention centre since past November. According to EU technicians Italian government also financed two other detention centres in the Sahara desert, where expelled citizens usually arrive when they travel towards Niger. This journey is extremely dangerous and when migrants refuse to go back from this route, they are arrested. In only one year 106 people died in Niger, a country close to Libya. The EU document is scaring: it lists all the things that Italy has already given to Libya. And past year Libya asked us to furnish 1,000 body bags and we did give them to Libya: we do not know what these are for.

Question - Since the first deportations from Lampedusa to Libya, many denounced the dangers of this, now we are facing objective data. What can institutionally be done?
Answer - Italian/Libby agreement must be cancelled. Libya cannot receive economical support without the respect of human rights. Libya must sign the Geneva Convention that safeguards refugees’ rights and we need to be able to monitor what happens in Libya: members of the parliament, ngos, international observers must be allowed to visit and see what happens in this African country. Libya does not want to sign the Geneva Convention because it may become a problem. There are thousands of people that are detained in Libya, their detention is arbitrary, almost casual; it is a consequences of nationality, of skin colour,… In Libya the same technicians asked citizens how regular and irregular migrants are recognised… no one could answer. The truth is that a migrants’ hunt is going on at Italian expenses.
Another important issue is related to charter flights that leave Libya towards other African countries. In the last year 47 flights took place, 6,000 citizens were repatriated always at Italian expenses. Deportations occurred without citizenship assessment. 109 citizens were repatriated to Eritrea, a country were no one has ever been repatriated since citizens are considered deserters and therefore jailed or even killed if repatriated.

Question - You managed to enter Lampedusa’s detention centre. What can you tell us?
Answer - The emergency faced in Lampedusa past October and March is a national – international – shame. The situation is not very different from the one in Libya, as EU inspectors declared. In Lampedusa people are isolated inside a overcrowded centre, they cannot talk or communicate to anyone and they simply wait for other people to decide over their future. The same happens in Libya. This is unacceptable, and it becomes even more unacceptable because this systematically happens in Italy.