The European Commission has threatened Italy with legal action for possible breaches of the EU’s rules on granting asylum, after its treatment of African migrants on the island of Lampedusa.
A video showing migrants standing naked in the cold while being sprayed for scabies at a detention centre stirred outrage in Italy on Tuesday.
Hundreds of people have died in recent months as refugees seek to enter the EU through Lampedusa, an Italian island south of Sicily, putting the EU’s migration policies in the spotlight. EU leaders are due to discuss migration at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, in response to the high number of migrants drowning in recent months.
The commission’s home affairs chief, Cecilia Malmstrom, said the EU executive was investigating Italian detention centres. “The images we have seen from Lampedusa are appalling and unacceptable,” she said. “We will not hesitate to launch an infringement procedure to make sure EU standards and obligations are fully respected.”
The commission could take Italy, which bears the brunt of illegal immigration from North Africa, to court over its adherence to EU rules on acceptable conditions in detention centres, among other issues, officials said.
At this week’s summit, EU leaders will weigh proposals by the commission to address the issue, including possible changes in asylum rules that would allow people to ask for protection before reaching European soil.