On the 30th of March 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its judgment in the J.A. and Others v. Italy, no. 21329/18. The case concerned four Tunisian applicants who left Tunisia and were rescued by an Italian ship which took them to Lampedusa. They remained in the Lampedusa hotspot for ten days allegedly unable to leave the centre or contact the authorities, while living in inhuman and degrading conditions. The applicants and some 40 others were then transferred to the airport, where they were asked to sign refusal-of-entry orders. They were subsequently removed to Tunisia.

The ECtHR ruled that, having regard to the elements submitted by the applicants, supported by photographs and several reports, the applicants’ poor material conditions at the hotspot  violated Article 3 ECHR. The Court reiterated that difficulties deriving from the increased inflow of migrants do not exonerate states from their obligations under Article 3.

The ECtHR then stated that the impossibility for the applicants to lawfully leave the closed area of the hotspot clearly amounts to a deprivation liberty under Article 5 of the Convention, all the more so considering that the maximum duration of their stay in the crisis centre was not defined by any law and that the regulatory framework did not allow the use of the Lampedusa hotspot as a detention centre for foreigners. The applicants were neither informed of the legal reasons for their deprivation of liberty nor able to challenge the grounds of their de facto detention. Hence, the Court held that Italy violated Article 5 §§ 1, 2 and 4 of the Convention.

Lastly, the ECtHR ruled that the refusal-of-entry and removal orders issued did not take proper account of applicants’ individual situation and so constituted a collective expulsion under Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.