The Court of Rome orders the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue an entry visa for humanitarian reasons for an unaccompanied minor in Libya

Against a background of violence and horror that has brought bloodshed to Libya, the most exposed to which being the migrants trapped in the centres where torture is regularly practised, on 21 February 2019, the Tribunal of Rome ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Italian Embassy at Tripoli, to issue a visa for humanitarian reasons for an unaccompanied Nigerian minor in Libya.

The boy had already suffered repeated kidnapping for the purpose of extortion as well as interception at sea by the so-called Libyan Coast Guard and was in urgent need of medical treatment. He was located, identified and provided with support by the personnel of the IOM in response to a request made by Italian legal workers, in contact with the mother, who has regular residence in Italy. Despite repeated urging by the IOM, the Nigerian Embassy failed to provide the boy with an identity document, while the Italian Embassy issued neither a document valid for travel nor an entry visa.

It was for this reason that the minor’s mother submitted an urgent appeal to the Tribunal of Rome, which ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to proceed with immediate issue of an entry visa with limited territorial validity on humanitarian grounds (art. 25, Regulation CE n. 810/09). Thus the Italian Embassy at Tripoli issued a travel permit and an entry visa, and, thanks to the support of the IOM, the minor has at last been able to enter Italian territory and join his mother in conditions of perfect safety.

This was a decision of major importance, not only confirming the absolutely appalling situation faced by thousands of migrants in Libya, but also providing a new legal instrument in the challenge for the protection of fundamental rights of every human being, to which ASGI has shown unflagging commitment.

The possibilities for legal proceedings in support of people trapped in Libya are limited, but they occupy a central position in the activities of our association which, over the years, has explored a wide range of approaches and legal actions at the national and supranational level to give real meaning to the ideal of the individual’s freedom to travel.

Strategic litigations also expose the responsibilities of the European and Italian institutions, which – either directly or by passing on the responsibility for refoulement to the so-called Libyan Coast Guard – make access to Europe practically impossible for migrants and asylum-seekers. It is, however, evident that a plan to evacuate from Libya the thousands of migrants reduced to slavery, tortured in the detention centres, and condemned to isolation and extreme hardship – like the citizens of Libya themselves, trapped in the horrors of war – can be implemented only with the requisite clear-sighted political will.

Indeed, to have come to an agreement with the Libyan Government of Al Serraj in 2017, abandoning all search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, while criminalising (as from 2017, relentlessly pursuing the illegitimate policy cynically hailed as the closure of Italian ports) the activities of the NGOs that had been making up for the grave shortcomings of the institutions in this respect – all this constitutes damning evidence of the responsibilities of Italy and the European Union for the present situation.

Within the broader context of a process to externalise borders and asylum rights, they have seriously undermined respect of fundamental human rights, thereby breaching the most basic principles upon which the European Union itself was founded.

Respecting fundamental human rights means overturning the present European and Italian approach to immigration characterised by indifference when not actually enabling intolerable abuses.

Ordinary Court of Rome – Decision 21.02.2019