Published by Comunicato congiunto | 20 / Jun / 2024

Patrol boats for Tunisia: the Council of State accepts the precautionary petition of Italian civil society

Transfer of patrol boats to Tunisia suspended until further notice. The hearing in the Council Chamber is scheduled for 11 July. ASGI, ARCI, ActionAid, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Spazi Circolari and Le Carbet had appealed to the Lazio Regional Administrative Court against the €4.8 million funding for the refitting and transfer of six patrol boats to Tunisia.

At the end of May, the TAR rejected the appeal by ASGI, ARCI, ActionAid, Mediterranea Saving Humans, Spazi Circolari and Le Carbet against the transfer of six patrol boats to the Tunisian National Guard. As a result of this decision, the transfer of the first three patrol boats was scheduled for June. The associations then appealed to the Conseil d'Etat against the Administrative Court's decision, urging it to suspend the operation as a precautionary measure.

"As the United Nations has also argued, making patrol boats available to the Tunisian authorities means increasing the risk of migrants being subjected to illegal expulsions," explain Maria Teresa Brocchetto, Luce Bonzano and Cristina Laura Cecchini, from the pool of lawyers following the case.

The human rights violations committed by the Tunisian authorities are extremely serious. The new wave of arrests and deportations of migrants is now accompanied by the persecution of civil society actors who support them", says Filippo Miraglia of ARCI, "but Italian and European policies seem to support and justify each other, impervious to the alarms sounded by the United Nations and international NGOs, which unanimously condemn the actions of the Tunisian authorities".

The Lazio Regional Administrative Court had ruled that the contested agreement was legitimate, considering that it was in line with decisions taken at EU level - see the EU-Tunisia Memorandum of Understanding of 16 July 2002 - and at national level - most recently the confirmation of Tunisia as a safe country of origin - and that the Italian government had carried out a full investigation, given its long-term cooperation with Tunisia. Now, the Council of State's acceptance of the precautionary petition has turned the situation on its head: the Supreme Administrative Court has, in fact, considered that "the needs of protection represented by the petitioner prevail" and has suspended the transfer of the patrol boats in view of the possible violations that such an act could entail.

"The mass expulsions, arbitrary arrests and violence against migrants show that Tunisia cannot be considered a safe place to land. As in the case of Libya, the Tunisian authorities cannot be considered as partners in rescue operations," commented Lorenzo Figoni of ActionAid Italy.

"This is an extremely important decision because the human rights of people on the move are at stake. The suspension of the transfer of the patrol boats will allow the judicial authority to assess the legality of the act before it can have harmful effects. On the basis of the documents submitted, we consider Tunisia to be an unsafe port,' concludes Laura Marmorale, president of Mediterranea Saving Humans.

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