Court: Italy Must Compensate Somali, Eritrean Migrants

Posted February 23rd, 2012 at 10:25 am (UTC-5)
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A European court says Italy must pay a group of African migrants more than $22,000 each for illegally returning them to Libya.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that Italy violated the rights of 11 Somali and 13 Eritrean migrants who it intercepted in the Mediterranean in May 2009 and quickly handed over to Libyan authorities.

The court said Italian officials denied the migrants a chance to explain their circumstances and imposed what amounted to collective punishment. It said they also exposed the migrants to the risk of ill treatment in Libya and the risk of arbitrary return to their home countries.

The migrants had lodged a complaint with the court 20 days after being forced back to Libya.

At the time, Italy said the return was based on an agreement it made with Libya, designed to reduce illegal immigration.

Thousands of Africans board boats for Europe each year, trying to escape poverty, oppression or conflict in their home countries.