Amnesty International has accused Italian police of beating and using electric shocks to force migrants into being fingerprinted.
In a new report, the Human Rights Organisation said the European Union’s pressure on Italy to “get tough” on refugees and migrants has led to unlawful expulsions and ill-treatment which in some cases has resulted to torture.
The report documents beatings, electric shocks and sexual humiliation among the numerous allegations of abuse.
The EU-sponsored ‘hotspot approach’ for processing refugees and migrants at the point of arrival is not only undermining their right to claim asylum but has fuelled appalling abuse and some people were detained arbitrarily the report shows.
The hotspot approach to receive refugees and migrants in key arrival countries like Italy was introduced in 2015, as a way to speed up identity processes, screen and filter all newly arrived men, women and children. Until last year, most refugees refused to be identified and headed straight for the richer north.
Italy has become the main arrival point in Europe for people fleeing persecution and poverty in Africa, most of them crossing the Mediterranean from Libya in search of a better life. Last year, Europe saw an influx of more than one million migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty in its worst.
“In their determination to reduce the onward movement of refugees and migrants to other member states, EU leaders have driven the Italian authorities to the limits, and beyond, of what is legal,” Amnesty researcher Matteo de Bellis said in a statement upon the release of the 2015/16 report.
“The result is that traumatised people, arriving in Italy after harrowing journeys, are being subjected to flawed assessments and in some instances appalling abuse at the hands of the police, as well as unlawful expulsions.”
Amnesty said it had interviewed more than 170 refugees and migrants in Italy since July 2015. Most had not refused to give their fingerprints and reported no problems, but 24 people alleged having been subjected to ill-treatment by police.
A 16-year-old boy from Sudan told Amnesty researchers: “They gave me electricity with a stick, many times on the left leg, then on right leg, chest and belly. I was too weak, I couldn’t resist and at that point they took both my hands and put them on the machine and a 25-years old woman from Eritrea said: “I was slapped repeatedly in the face by a policeman until i agreed to be fingerprinted.”
The report also condemned the assessment process for arrivals in the hotspots, which is aimed at selecting asylum seekers from those considered irregular refugees.
“People, often exhausted and traumatised from their journeys and without access to adequate information or advice on asylum procedures, have to answer questions with potentially profound implications for their futures,” it said.