Rights of migrants upheld by European court

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migrants rescued at seas

Two United Nations agencies have welcomed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that it is a violation of human rights for a State to collectively expel migrants who are intercepted on the high seas.

It was made in a case brought by 13 Eritrean and 11 Somali migrants who were rescued at sea in 2009 by the Italian Coastguard near the island of Lampedusa and forcibly returned to Libya.

The UN office for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN Refugee agency UNHCR said the action by the Italian authorities was a clear violation of the prohibition of torture and exposed the migrants to the risk of arbitrary return to countries where they face persecution or serious harm.

Ravina Shamdasani from the UN Human Rights Office says the case was a reaffirmation of the human rights of all migrants at sea.

"We call on all States to recognize and respect the fundamental rights of all migrants, guaranteed by international law, regardless of their immigration status or other status. We have long expressed alarm at the interception and collective expulsion of migrants, often risking their lives, on the high seas, without the opportunity for an individual examination of their cases. We urge States to avoid making migration policies based on assumptions about the motivations of migrants which are based on their country of nationality or of departure, their gender, age or their ethnicity, and instead to put in place procedures premised on the protection of the human rights of all migrants."

Duration:  40″

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