12/16/2015

Brussels tells Italy to use force if necessary to fingerprint refugees and migrants

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/12052156/Brussels-tells-Italy-to-use-force-if-necessary-to-fingerprint-refugees-and-migrants.html?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1450256502

European Commission criticises Italy for opening only one of six promised "hotspots" for registering migrants and asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean from Libya


Migrants wait to disembark from the British Border Force vessel HMC Protector in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, Italy, September 2, 2015.
Migrants arrive at Pozzallo in Sicily, one of the hotspots highlighted by the European Commission as needing attention Photo: Reuters
The European Commission ordered Italy to use force if necessary to compel migrants and refugees to have their fingerprints taken, a move which obliges them to apply for asylum in Italy rather than move on to the richer countries of northern Europe.
Under the Dublin Convention, refugees are obliged to be registered and then to apply for asylum in the first EU country that they arrive in.
Tens of thousands of migrants have reached Italy in recent years after boarding boats on the coast of Libya on journeys organised by ruthless smugglers and armed militias.
Italy has long been accused of turning a blind eye to registering many of them, so that they are free to leave the country by train and bus and travel north to countries such as Germany, France and Britain.

Amid concerns over the sheer number of refugee arrivals in the last year, and fears that Islamic extremists could be among them, the European Commission on Tuesday insisted that Italy must take fingerprints, even if force had to be used in cases where migrants refuse to have their prints taken.
The Commission called on the Italians to “allow the use of force for fingerprinting and to include provisions on longer-term retention for those migrants that resist fingerprinting".
It added: “The target of a 100 per cent fingerprinting rate for arriving migrants needs to be achieved without delay.”
There have been cases in the past of refugees burning their fingers so as wipe out their prints, or coating them with nail varnish or super-glue to achieve the same effect.
Last week, Brussels announced that it waslaunching legal action against Italy, as well as Greece and Croatia, for failing to carry out the mandatory fingerprintingof asylum seekers and cataloguing the data within 72 hours.
The Commission also criticised the slow progress made by Rome in setting up six so-called “hotspots”, identification facilities where genuine refugees from countries such as Syria could be distinguished from economic migrants, for instance from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Illegal immigrants from North Africa arrive on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa February 13, 2011.Illegal immigrants from North Africa arrive on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa  Photo: Reuters
“Despite consistent encouragements by the Commission, at present only one of the six designated hotspot areas is fully operational, in Lampedusa,” it said in the report.
The Commission urged the Italian authorities to open two other hotspots as soon as possible – at Pozzallo and Porto Empedocle in Sicily.
The other three, in the ports of Trapani, Augusta and Taranto, required “major works” and may not be ready for months, the report said.
“We are busy working to open the hotspots but this is a new concept that requires time,” said Sandro Gozi, Italy’s under-secretary for European affairs.
“We’re also strengthening procedures so as to speed up the identification (of migrants).”
He said the rest of Europe must help Italy to pay for the repatriation of economic migrants to their home countries and for the resettlement of genuine refugees in EU states.
An ambitious resettlement programme formulated by the EU, in which 160,000 refugees would be distributed around Europe, has been criticised for its slow progress, with just a few hundred refugees resettled so far.
The Italian government said it deserved thanks, not criticism, from Europe for rescuing and processing hundreds of thousands of migrants.
“Had we not saved thousands of lives, Europe would now be covered in shame,” said Angelino Alfano, the interior minister.
So far this year, 925,000 refugees and migrants have reached Europe by sea, in the worst crisis of its kind since the Second World War.
Refugees, who have been stuck for days in the port of Lesbos island protest. The government has chartered two ferries to transport them but with thousands of new arrivals each day, they have not been enoughThousands of migrants have descended on the Greek island of Lesbos  Photo: EPA
The majority – 750,000 – arrived on the Greek islands from Turkey, with 144,000 reaching Italy.
On Monday, Italian police arrested a Syrian on suspicion of being a member ofIslamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) after he arrived in Sicily along with hundreds of refugees.
The man, reportedly in his 20s, was arrested after police found incriminating material on his mobile phone.
He reportedly had videos and photographs which appeared to be of Isil attacks along with a text message which read "Allah is great, but ISIS [Isil] is even better".
He arrived on December 4 on a wooden fishing boat carrying 520 people, and had been staying at a migrant reception centre in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo before his arrest.
At least one of the men involved in last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris is believed to have travelled through Italy on his way to France.