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Italy to Build First ‘Hotspot’ for Migrants and Refugees in North

Friuli Venezia-Giulia, FVG, will be the first region in northern Italy to host a hotspot for migrants and refugees. The decision was taken after weeks of talks, during a summit in Trieste with FVG’s four prefects, Regional President Massimiliano Fedriga and the government’s Extraordinary Commissioner for the Migrant Emergency, Valerio Valenti.

In the first four months of 2023, FVG saw a 180-per-cent increase in the number of refugees and migrants arriving from the “Balkan Route” – even as the numbers taking the route are reportedly lower than last year. The hotspot, the government hopes, will help the region cope better with arrivals.

The exact location is not determined, although the regional capital, Trieste, is likely to be chosen, according to media reports – but during the press conference following the summit it was made clear that the structure will be built soon.

“The commissioner’s office and the Ministry [of Interior] will provide the resources to make it [the construction] happen,” Commissioner Valenti told the media.

Italy first introduced hotspots in 2015, in agreement with the European Commission, to tackle big arrivals of migrants and refugees on Italy’s southern coasts. Up to this point, they were only located in the southern cities of Lampedusa, Trapani, Pozzallo and Taranto.

“The objective is to provide initial assistance in the hotspot, but then remove those who arrive irregularly. The hotspot will also have a Detention and Repatriation facility. Repatriations are to be carried out for those coming from ‘safe’ countries, with an accelerated procedure,” said Regional President Fedriga, quoted by the Trieste newspaper Il Piccolo.

Fedriga’s explanation captures in a nutshell the main goal behind the creation of hotspots – identify and separate refugees from so-called economic migrants.

“Hotspots operate in a complicated manner … the hotspot procedure itself creates a situation of difficult access to the asylum procedure and the individual assessment of the situations of people in transit, as the first response is to detain people before analysing individual cases,” Caterina Bove, a lawyer and member of the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration, ASGI, told BIRN.

On March 30, 2023, the European Court of Human Rights, ECtHR, condemned Italy over its hotspot approach in a case involving four Tunisian citizens detained in the Lampedusa hotspot. The four were supported among other organisations and rights groups by the ASGI.

According to the ruling, Italy violated the prohibition on inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary detention and on collective expulsions.

“As this project becomes more concrete, it makes us increasingly worried. The [ECtHR] ruling originated from the four cases, but it’s clear that the condemned praxis is still the one being applied today,” concluded Bove.

Source: Balkan Insight