CPT: Lack of Safeguards Against Torture During Return Flights From Spain and Italy

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has published its reports on return flights of migrants from Spain and Italy.
The CPT monitored two return flights: one from Rome to Lagos, Nigeria, which took place on December 17, 2015, and one from Madrid to Bogotá, Colombia, and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on February 18, 2016.
The CPT observed the flights in order to analyze the way foreign nationals are returned by air by the two countries. Both operations were jointly coordinated by the EU agency Frontex and the national authorities.

Spain

Regarding the return flight from Spain, the Committee's report notes that the returned migrants were only informed about the flight a few hours before its departure, so it calls on the authorities to notify migrants in writing and a few days in advance and to guarantee access to a lawyer and to a telephone prior to the travel.

The report documents an incident of medical nature during the flights and reminds authorities of the importance of guaranteeing a medical examination of the returned migrants prior to the flight in order to assess if the individual is fit to fly. It also recommends the authorities to provide training to the escort staff involved in removal operations, paying special attention to the psychological aspects of their duty.

The monitoring delegation also documented a disproportionate use of restraint measures, and the report recommends that authorities review their current practice bearing in mind European human rights standards.

Italy

The CPT report on Italy voices many concerns about Italian government's handling of the flight. First, and similar to the situation in Spain, the Committee notes that the migrants were informed of their removal from Italy on the same day as the flight.

Another issue the CPT delegation noticed was that some of the returned migrants still had appeal cases pending before an Italian Court. In the report, the Committee urges Italy to put in place a mechanism to enhance the information flow between the courts and law enforcement on pending appeals.

About this issue, the Italian government replied that it has introduced new procedures to better protect rejected asylum seekers to ensure jurisdictional protection to those who appeal against unjust rejections. The government also said that proposals are currently under evaluation on a procedural reform that would reduce the time it takes to examine asylum applications and reduce the cases of exception to the automatic suspension of an administrative order. It is to be noted, though, that such proposed reforms have been criticized by Italian's civil society as deeply inadequate and possibly dangerous (as it is the case for the proposed reform of civil proceedings with regard to asylum cases which would basically abolish appeal against denials of international protection).

The Italian report also states that each person to be removed should undergo a medical examination before their departure and that a fit-to-fly certificate should be produced. This report also recommends that special attention be given to the escort staff, who is is subject to a very high degree of stress during the execution of its tasks. The government responded to this by pointing out that escort staff undergo psychosocial and physical screening and specific training courses focused on both relevant operational and legal aspects before they begin work.

Frontex recommendations

Both reports contained common recommendations to Frontex, including:

  • More precise rules on the use of means of restraint should be put in place by Frontex and its state parties.
  • The implementation of an effective complaints procedure accessible to detainees up until their arrival in the country of destination.

Click here to read the Spanish government's response to the report.

Click here to read the Italian government's response to the report.

This story was prepared by Rights International Spain and the Italian Coalition for Civil Rights and Freedoms.