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ECJ: Countries have the right to punish migrants who violate entry bans

The EU's highest court has ruled that member states have the right to punish illegal migrants who re-enter a country after having been deported. The decision comes as many countries push for tighter immigration controls.

The European Court of Justice on Thursday ruled that EU member states are permitted to imprison migrants who return to a country after having received an entry ban upon deportation.

The specific case focused on an Albanian man, Skerdjan Celaj, who was deported from Italy and refused permission to re-enter for three years. However, he returned illegally after only two years and was subsequently taken into custody by authorities. Italian prosecutors sought to punish him with an eight-month prison sentence.

The ECJ ruled in favor of the Italian court, insisting it had the right to enforce punitive measures - including prison time - for migrants who violated entry bans, as long as the rules adhere to the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees.

The decision comes as EU politicians and individual members states are trying to revamp deportation laws as they deal with an influx of refugees from the Middle East and beyond.

Over 500,000 people have entered the European Union this year. Many, particularly those fleeing war and unrest in Syria and Africa, are eligible for asylum. Others are seen by EU governments as economic migrants and in danger of being persecuted at home. These migrants can be forced to return to their countries of origin.

blc/sms (Reuters, KNA)

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