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Returning sea migrants to Libya is illegal- Italy's Court of Cassation

A crew member of the MSF (Doctors Without Borders) ship takes a selfie photo with migrants upon their arrival at the Vibo Valentia's harbor, Italy, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015.   -  
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Adriana Sapone/AP


Sending sea migrants back to Libya is unlawful. A ruling by Italy's top appeals court on Feb 1 upheld earlier decisions by two lower courts. The ruling which was publicised by Italian media over the weekend was described as final.

The Court of Cassation also upheld the conviction of the captain of an Italian towboat, Asso 28, who in 2018 rescued 101 migrants from a rubber dinghy and returned them to Libya.

The rescue which had pregnant women and children were among the migrants took place in international waters about 105 km off Libya, according to the court.

Both rulings have also been hailed by charities and human rights groups. "Pushing people back to Libya and collaborating with the so-called (Libyan) coast guard conflicts with the duty to bring rescued people to a safe place", the Italian office of Amnesty International said.

The Libya to Italy crossing is one of the most-used sea migration routes in the world.

In recent years, Italy and other European governments have taken an increasingly hard line on immigration. It comes amid a rise in support for right-wing parties that want massive curbs on sea arrivals from North Africa.

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