Italian court rules that sending migrants back to Libya is unlawful

Feb 18, 2024 | International actors

On 18 February, the ruling (made on 1 February) of Italy’s top appeals court, the Court of Cassation, that sending migrants rescued at sea back to Libya is unlawful was made public by the Italian media. The court upheld the conviction of the captain of an Italian towboat, Asso 28, who in 2018 rescued 101 migrants from a rubber dinghy and returned them to Libya. The rescue took place in international waters about 105 km off Libya and the captain was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for the crimes of abandoning minors or incapacitated persons (as there were pregnant women and children among those rescued), and arbitrary disembarkation and abandonment of persons.

Several search and rescue charities and human rights organisations have welcomed the ruling, stressing it supports what they have been saying for years – that Libya is not a safe country to return migrants to.