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Immigration

European Court of Human Rights bars deportation of Afghan migrants

The ECHR has barred the deportation of an Afghan migrant family from Switzerland to Italy. The ruling calls into question an EU regulation stipulating refugees must seek asylum in the country where they first landed.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) barred Switzerland on Tuesday from deporting a family of Afghan migrants back to Italy, saying its well-being could be at risk.

The ECHR expressed its misgivings over shortcomings in Italy's reception facilities for migrants, and said that deportation could subject the Tarakhel family, which includes several children, to "overcrowded facilities" and "insalubrious and violent conditions."

The decision, which is final, may serve as a precedent for future migrant cases.

"The possibility that a significant number of asylum seekers may be left without accommodation or accommodated in overcrowded facilities without any privacy, or even in insalubrious or violent conditions cannot be dismissed as unfounded," the court said.

The Tarakhel family initially arrived in Italy from Afhganistan in July 2011. An EU rule known as the Dublin Regulation stipulates that asylum seekers must have their cases judged in the EU country where they first landed.

Mission Mare Nostrum Italien

Italy has rescued more than 150,000 refugees from the Mediterranean since October 2013

But the family went instead to Austria to apply for asylum, where its claim was rejected. The family then headed to Switzerland to file a new asylum request in November 2011. Swiss officials decided to refer the case back to Italy, but the Tarakhel family has continued to live in the Swiss city of Lausanne since 2011.

Italy has seen a flood of migrants attempt to enter the country via dangerous voyages across the Mediterranean. Italian authorities have rescued more than 150,000 migrants from the sea after two deadly shipwrecks in October 2013 killed 400 people.

Some EU observers say the so-called Dublin Regulation places an unfair burden on southern European countries in handling the massive number of asylum requests and that the Tarakhel family ruling highlights its problems.

"The ruling shows that 'Dublin Regulation' is not working at all anymore," German European Deputy Ska Keller said. "It is time to replace it with a reasonable system," instead of "holding to a system that discharges on the southern countries of the EU all responsibility for refugees."

Human rights groups have also criticized the Dublin Regulation because it gives migrants no legal mechanism to rejoin family and friends in northern Europe. Countries in northern Europe like Germany and Sweden argue that limits are needed to prevent a massive influx of refugees to nations with generous welfare systems.

bw/kms (AFP, dpa)

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