That the strained Italian asylum system does not always comply with applicable legislation is by now widely acknowledged. When procedures under the Dublin III Regulation nevertheless result in a decision to return a vulnerable person to Italy, the conditions related to this person’s return to Italy should be documented, to encourage Member States’ authorities to make better-informed decisions with regard to Dublin returns to Italy.
The Dublin Returnee Monitoring Project (DRMP) implemented by the Swiss Refugee Council, aims at documenting the return conditions of vulnerable persons returned to Italy under a Dublin procedure, and to make the data thus collected available to the relevant authorities and to the public.
The Swiss Refugee Council and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) started the project in 2016 and have jointly documented the return conditions (access to the asylum system and reception conditions) of vulnerable persons returned to Italy from a number of EU Member States and associated countries up until 2019. As of 2019, the project is continued by Swiss Refugee Council only. The methodology has remained the same. Data are collected through interviews with the returned persons, implemented by local collaborators over a period of several months starting from the day of their return. Thus far, the data show that access to the asylum system and reception conditions for vulnerable persons returned to Italy under a Dublin procedure are often not in line with legal requirements.
According to standing international case-law on Dublin returns (such as the judgments of the ECtHR in M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece and later also in Tarakhel v. Switzerland, and in a similar vein the rulings of the CJEU in N.S, Abdullahi and more recently also C.K. and others v. Slovenija), any state bound by the Dublin regulation should abstain from returning a person under the regulation not only when there are ‘systematic flaws’ in the asylum system of the country to which the person would be returned, but also exceptionally when there are real and proven risks of inhuman and degrading treatment within the meaning of Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (or within the meaning of Article 3 of the ECHR) upon return of the person.
By systematically collecting and publishing data on the conditions of vulnerable persons already returned to Italy under the Dublin Regulation, Swiss Refugee Council hopes to be able to prevent the infringement of the rights of vulnerable persons under international, European and national law by the return of such persons to Italy under the present circumstances. The first report of the project was published in 2017 and can be found here, the second report was published in december 2018. Already, the reports have been referred to by the judiciary of EU Member States to sustain a judgment, annulling a decision to transfer a person to Italy under the Dublin procedure. Swiss Refugee Council hopes that this will become common practice in the future.
If possible, vulnerable persons that will be returned to Italy under the Dublin Regulation are informed about the project already in the transferring Member State. They are provided with this information sheet or at least with the contact information of Swiss Refugee Council, and consequently asked for their consent to join the project by signing the Power of Attorney. The collaborating person in the transferring Member State may note down relevant information regarding the transfer in the Referral Form, based on which Swiss Refugee Council will alert a local collaborators involved in the project, who will contact the returned person before or right after the transfer to Italy has taken place. After being transferred to Italy, the Dublin returnees will be interviewed by persons collaborating with Swiss Refugee Council in Italy in order for Swiss Refugee Council to document their situation in Italy.
Local collaborators are asked to become involved in the project based on their commitment to Swiss Refugee Council’s objectives and values. They are asked to sign a Contract of Collaboration and may be given a Confirmation of Collaboration, which will help them to identify themselves to the returned person or to relevant authorities. In case the collaborators need to make use of the services of an interpreter, they may use the Terms of Collaboration for Interpreters, which describes the role of the interpreter within the project. For a description of data protection measures that should be taken into account by all involved, the Terms of Collaboration offer a detailed overview of these and other measures. For further information the contact persons at Swiss Refugee Council can be consulted.