BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A ruling by human rights judges against Italy on Monday over the deportation of three Tunisians in 2011 highlights the risks of streamlining repatriation as European authorities propose just that to help cope with an influx from Africa, Syria and Iraq.
Italian authorities sent back the men after they fled Tunisia's Arab Spring uprising and they were arrested during a protest by migrants on the island of Lampedusa.
Their deportation was unjustified because the "collective expulsion" failed to treat each man on a case-by-case basis and did not include individual interviews or bespoke documentation, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled.
The expulsion decisions which were "identically worded" and with no reference to the personal situation of the migrants, the court found, violating Article 4 of the 4th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. It also noted other breaches in the case.
As Europe faces its biggest refugee crisis since World War Two, the European Commission, the EU executive, is proposing to speed up the repatriation of migrants who do not qualify for asylum. It also wants to agree a list of "safe" countries whose citizens are less likely to be eligible for asylum in the EU.
That would allow states to "fast-track" rejections of claims for refuge, the Commission says, though it would not relieve EU member states of the duty to assess each claim individually.
The seven judges, whose rulings concern the 47-state Council of Europe and not just the 28 members of the European Union, also said governments should not abuse bilateral agreements with countries of origin to speed up procedures for repatriation.
The secretary general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, said: "Today’s judgment is a timely reminder ... that asylum seekers and migrants must be treated as individual human beings with the same basic rights as everyone else."
Reporting by Robin Emmott and Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Louise Ireland