Italian police have used beatings and electric shocks, potentially constituting “torture”, to coerce migrants into being fingerprinted as the country cracks under pressure from the EU, Amnesty International said today.
But the report was bluntly rejected by Italy’s chief of police, who completely denied the use of violent methods in the force’s handling of migrants.
“The European Union’s pressure on Italy to ‘get tough’ on refugees and migrants has led to unlawful expulsions and ill-treatment which in some cases may amount to torture,” the London-based rights watchdog said in a report.
The EU-sponsored “hotspot approach” for processing people which requires Italy to fingerprint new arrivals so they can be prevented from claiming asylum elsewhere -- has even seen minors abused, according to testimony from over 170 migrants.
Some migrants do not want to be finger-printed as they hope to continue on to an EU-nation of their choosing and apply for asylum.
The allegations of violence were swiftly denied by chief of police Franco Gabrielli.
“I categorically deny that violent methods were used against migrants, either during their identification process or repatriation,” he said in a statement.
Last year, Europe saw an influx of more than one million migrants and asylum seekers fleeing war and poverty in its worst such crisis since World War II.
“In their determination to reduce the onward movement of refugees and migrants to other member states, EU leaders have driven the Italian authorities to the limits -- and beyond -- of what is legal,” said Matteo de Bellis, Amnesty International’s Italy Researcher.
“The result is that traumatised people, arriving in Italy after harrowing journeys, are being subjected to flawed assessments and in some instances appalling abuse at the hands of the police, as well as unlawful expulsions,” he was quoted as saying.
Of the 24 reports of ill-treatment Amnesty gathered, 16 involved beatings.
In several cases, people also said they had been given electric shocks with stun batons, including a 16-year-old boy from Sudan.