Italy quietly rejects asylum seekers by nationality, advocates say

di  Kavitha Surana*

Nineteen refugees from Eritrea waved to the cameras as they boarded a plane leaving from Rome. Bound for Lulea, Sweden, their trip marked the inauguration of a refugee plan in Europe, one that will redistribute Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqi asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to northern countries with stronger economies and better asylum infrastructure.

But only a week earlier, a different scene played out in Sicily, the island where many refugees traveling by boat arrive in Italy. Nearly 30 men and one woman from Africa crowded inside the small room of local Catholic charity in Catania, nervously listening to a lawyer explain the complex and sometimes arbitrary procedures for asylum processing in Europe.

“Sudan, Eritrea — they get help. Nigeria — half and half,” Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, a professor of immigration and asylum law, told the group. “Countries like Gambia and Burkina Faso have almost no chance.”

As Europe’s border control agency, Frontex, seeks to implement faster methods in Italy and Greece to allow refugees from places like Syria, Iraq and Eritrea to receive asylum and move to other EU countries, there is a simultaneous effort to keep out so-called economic migrants. Yet the criteria to classify them and the process to return them are far from clear, leading to fears of discriminatory rejections and expulsions.

According to local activists and lawyers, police authorities in Sicily have begun to summarily classify some new arrivals as economic migrants on the basis of their country of origin, issuing them refusal-of-entry documents almost as soon as they arrive, without allowing them to exercise their international right to request asylum.

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*Giornalista multimediale

L’articolo è stato pubblicato il 19 ottobre su America al Jazeera