EU Re-Assesses Italy’s Activity in the Hotspots. Activists: “Fingerprinting? A Widespread Failure”.


The European Commission has closed the infringement case against Italy and Greece relating to accusations of deficiencies in migrant identification centres. At the same time, associations have noted the limited results of the relocation program. “The norm at the moment is to imprison asylum seekers”, says Paola Ottaviano from Borderline Sicilia.


Things are not going so badly for the Sicilian Hotspots, at least in relation to their ability to identify migrants. This is supported by the Commissions announcement today to close the infringement proceedings against the Italian and Greek governments, relating to the suspected lack of respect for the EURODAC regulation. Or rather, that of 2013, based on the European database of the same name, established to evaluate the competency of each individual member state in examining asylum requests. The regulation, which came into force in July 2015, was followed by the introduction of the Hotspot approach in the two border nations, and is tied to the rules provided by the Dublin Convention. According to the current rules, identification centres ought collect migrants’ fingerprints within 72 hour of their arrival, and then transfer them to the EURODAC database. This procedure, ever since its piloting, has been criticised from many fronts, beginning with the EU itself, which has claimed that the Italian and Greek Hotspots have not been able to undertake their tasks to an adequate standard.

After a year, however, the European Commission has made a U-turn. “Given the significant improvements observed in the work since 2016, the Commission is convinced that both Greece and Italy are taking the fingerprints of citizens from third countries in accordance with the EURODAC regulation, and has decided to close the infringement proceedings”, the official note reads. The EU’s decision, however, does not cancel out the criticisms made by associations fighting for the protection of migrants’ rights. Among these, Borderline Sicilia has reported the inadequacies of the Hotspot system for some time. “The Dublin regulation traps asylum seekers in border countries, as it states that a migrant must remain in the country of arrival”, explains Paola Ottaviano, a lawyer. “And if we consider that Italy and Greece are always countries of arrival and not of destination, we can understand the distortions made by this rule. It basically imprisons migrants.”

This judgement on the Hotspots is also influenced by the results obtained through the so-called relocation program, the procedure for redistributing migrants to other European states. This experiment, born as a balance for countries occupied with identification, has – according to Ottaviano – been a failure. “It’s the only way to describe it. The problems were clear from the start, and began with the decision to allow relocation only to people coming from countries which have received 75% recognition of claims for international protection.” These numbers have inevitably left out many nations – automatically allowing for the relocation only of Eritreans, Syrians and Iraqis – but above all making the rights of individual migrants bound to considerations which have littler to do with their persecution. “Some of the non-EU nations, like those in West Africa, are considered places from which only economic migrants come. But this is a mistake”, Ottaviano concludes, “because you can’t judge someone’s right to asylum based only on where they come from.”

Simone Olivelli
Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation: Richard Braude