Don’t Ask Me About My Business: The Mafia’s Exploitation of the European Migration Crisis
Don't Ask Me About My Business: The M afia's Exploitation of the European Migration Crisis
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0 Natalie Cappellazzo Boston College Law School
1 Thi s Notes is brought to you for free and open access by the Law Journals at Digital Commons @ Boston College Law School. It has been accepted for inclusion in Boston College International and Comparative Law Review by an authorized editor of Digital Commons @ Boston College Law School. For more information , please contact
DON?T ASK ME ABOUT MY BUSINESS:
THE MAFIA?S EXPLOITATION OF T HE
EUROPEAN MIGRATION CRISIS
Abstract: Old meets new as the Italian mafia capitalizes on the European migr
ation crisis. Beginning with the coordination of Mediterranean voyages and ending
with the indefinite exploitation of refugees at mafia -run migrant camps, the mafia
has found an opportunity to profit from the crisis at every step of the way. With no
end to the constant influx of refugees in sight, and verging on a hum anitarian
crisis within the camps?walls, Italy faces a serious problem that requires a multifa
ceted solution. The Dublin regulations, which mandate registration and application
for asylum in the first European Union country of entry, are in no small part tied
to the situation in Italy. Not only does this system disproportionately burden
border states and slow the asylum application process, it also traps refugees in proc
edural limbo and allows corrupt individuals and organizations to profit from their
quandary. In dire need of change in light of the refugee crisis, reforming Dublin
has the capacity to loosen the mafia?s financial stronghold on the plight of
migrants while also safeguarding the fundamental human rights of refugees and gi
ving them a better chance at the life they seek within Europe?s borders.
The centuries-old problem of Italian organized crime has collided with
the current refugee crisis, catalyzing the emergence of a lucrative new indu
stry: the trafficking and exploitation of mi grants.1 Organized crime?more
specifically the persistence and power of the Sicilian mafia ?is nothing new. 2 The
Sicilian mafia rose to power in the early to mi-d1800s and has since
maintained its grip on Sicilian politics, economics, and society in many wa ys.3 The
sudden influx of refugees into European waters and borders on the other hand,
* Natalie Cappellazzo is the Executive Note Editor for the Boston College
International&Comparative Law Review.
1 See James Politi, Italy?s Mafia Learns to Profit from the Migration Crisis , FIN. TIMES (July24,
2015, 4:41 PM), http//:www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/0d0371d0-31f4-11e5-8873-775ba7c2ea3d.html#
2 See Paolo Buonanno, Ruben Durante, Giovanni Prarolo & Paolo Vanin, On the Historical and
Geographic Origins of the Sicilian Mafia (Feb. 23, 2012) (unpublished manuscript), http://ssrn.com/
3 See id.; Diego Gambetta, Mafia: The Price of Distrust, in TRUST: MAKING AND BREAKING
COOPERATIVE RELATIONS 158, 159 (Diego Gambetta ed., 1990).
is a relatively recent phenomenon.4 The unprecedented volume and speed at
which migrants are pouring into Europe has ushered in new business for the
Mafia in the forms o f human trafficking, drug dealing, prostitution, and above
all, securing lucrative contracts for the service provision to and operation of
migrant reception centers.5
While each problematic in their own right, the combination of a healthy
mafia and a refugee crisis poses new threats and challenges both to Italy
domestically and to the greater international community. 6 The historical problems
associated with mafia prosecution in Sicily, coupled with Europe?s inability to
keep up with and respond to the ongoi ng refugee crisis, suggest that this is o
nly the beginning of the mafia profiting off of and taking advantage of the ever
increasing number of migrants. 7 Nevertheless, as bleak as this forecast may be,
finding a way to address this emerging problem is cruc ial to the preservation of
international security, human rights, economic health, and political stability in
Italy and beyond.8
The objective of this Note is to explain the blending of these phenomena
in order to underscore the need for an effective legal response. In highlighting
the notion that mafia-led migrant exploitation is a multi -faceted problem, the
Background section of this Note outlines the rise and persistence of the Sicil
ian mafia, and also describes the dynamics of the refugee crisis in the c ontext of
Southern Italy and Sicily. The Discussion then aims to explain how these two
seemingly distinct problems have merged into one, suggesting that such a
unique problem requires a response that not onlyweakens the mafia?s financial
grip on the refugee crisis, but also safeguards the rights of the migrants and
asylum seekers affected. It suggests a possible way forward via the Dublin
regulations, and examines the conflicting outcomes of two European Court of
Human Rights (ECtHR) cases that pertain to Dublin?s application across the
European Union (EU).
Although this analysis acknowledges that mafia existence is byno means
a novel issue, and that the migrant crisis itself is complex and overwhelming,
the purpose of bringing the potent combination of these issues to light from a
legal perspective is to highlight the pressing need for a solution to a growing
and severe international problem. The Analysis section argues that the current
Dublin regulations are not only inherently flawed, but also that they have
directly contributed to, exacerbated, and perpetuated the current situation in It
aly. It advocates for meaningful reform of Dublin that not only adequately a
ddresses the present problem of mafia exploitation of refugees, but also serves
as a much -needed step towards a consistent, harmonized asylum policy across
Europe that better safeguards the rights of asylum seekers, facilitate s migrant
integration, and promotes political, economic, and social stability across
Europe when it is needed more than ever.
A. The Roots and Rise of the Sicilian Mafia
In order to understand current mafia activity as it pertains to refugees, it is
useful to examine the environment in which the Sicilian mafia arose, as many
of the conditions that facilitated the initial emergence of organized crime in
Sicily are the very reason it still persists today. 9 The two major events during
the nineteenth century that catalyzed the rise of the Sicilian mafia are the det
erioration of feudalism in 1812, and the fall of the Bourbon reign in 1861.10
In the early 1800s, most Sicilian land was under the control of feudal ba
rons.11 However, rather than residing in their respective municipalities, most
lords lived in the capital city of Palermo, which doubled asthe political and
economic hub of Sicily. 12 Their land was rented to local proprietors who ma
naged production and often invested in the land themselves, until the feudal sy
stem was abolished and all previously held feudal lands were officially
transferred to the state.13 The power of the landlords was further weakened when
the Bourbon monarchy collapsed and the island was annexed to form a unified
Italian State. 14 During these major institutional shifts, law enforcement fell by
the wayside and the few valuable portions of land amongst the primarily
impoverished countryside became susceptible to attacks bylocal bandits. 15 As the
state consistently failed to provide adequate public protection via local law
enforcement, the demand for private protection skyrockete d.16 Simultaneously,
9 See, e.g., Gambetta, supra note 3, at 158 (no ting that the mafia has been able to sustain its
power in southern Italy for over a century by creating and reinforcing a system of distrust).
10 Paolo Buonanno, Ruben Durante, Giovanni Prarolo & Paolo Vanin,Poor Institutions, Rich
Mines: Resource Curse and the Origins of the Sicilian Mafia 125 ECON. J. 175, 180 (2015).
11 See id.
12 Id. at 180?81.
13 Id. at 181.
16 See id. The public perceived emerging Mafiosi as more capableof guaranteeingjusticeprivat
ely than the state could publicly. See Gambetta, supra note 3, at 164?65.
the collapse of feudalism created a new class of former soldiers and convicts
who had previously served as bodyguards to the local feudal administrators. 17
As groups of these individuals sprang up across the Sicilian countryside, their
violent backgrounds, extensive local knowledge, and need for income naturally
led to the commoditization of private protection.18 To this day, the degree of
mafia presence and the extent of its activity remain largely dependent on the
demand for protection and the state?s inability to provide it.19
In fact, although the Mafia is typically thought to deal mainly in violence,
its true primary commodity is protection. 20 This allows for a diverse clientele
and wide range of services, as the need for protection often extends to
transactions that would otherwise be perfectly legal. 21 For instance, customers of the
Sicilian mafia span both legal and illegal markets, and have included not only
landowners, herdsmen, and peasants, but also olive and orange growers, polit
icians, doctors, shopkeepers, smugglers, drug dealers, and weapons suppliers. 22
Further, because private protection is less often a one -time deal and more typ
ically a long-term contract that establishes an ongoing relationship, the bond
between provider and client is usually a lasting one.23 The deeply engrained
nature of the mafia in Sicilian society therefore suggests that so long as the
power of the mafia to guarantee protection supersedes that of the state, the d
emand for mafia services will remain.24
B. Mass Migration in the Mediterranean
The overwhelming influx of refugees has reached crisis level in Europe,
where over one million refugees arrived by December 2015. 25 The vast major
ity of migrants have traveled and entered by sea, with the voyage from Libya t o
Italy being among the most hazardous migration routes. 2
6 In 2015
, over 3770
migrants died, most of them crossing into Europe from North Africa2.7 The
17 Buonanno, supra note 10, at 181.
18 See id.
19 See id.
20 DIEGO GAMBETTA, THE SICILIAN MAFIA 2 (1993).
21 Id. at 3, 54 (?The mafia?s ?consumers? are quite cynical about it and knowthatmafia protection
is often not a good but a lesser evil. . . . Yet, although the use of private protection may appear
objectionable in principle, in practice it is often a sensible option for certain individuals. . . . In both legal
and illegal markets those who enlist mafiosi to sort out their disputes, to retrieve thei r stolenproperty,
or to protect their cartels from free riders and competitors do not perceive that protection as bogus.?).
22 Id. at 54.
24 See id.; see also Gambetta, supra note 3, at 158 (explaining that the mafia has been able to
sustain itself both intentionally and unintentionally for over a century).
25 Migrant Crisis: Migration to Europe Explained in Seven Charts , BBC (Mar. 4, 2016), http://
26 See id.
deadliest month was April, during which as many as 850 migrants died when a
boat capsized off the coast of Libya. 28 In 2015, over 130,000 migrants landed
in Italy alone.29 In 2016, this figure climbed to 171,000, setting a new record
for migrants reaching Italy by boat in a single year.30
Italy has found itself at the center of the migrant crisis since the Arab
Spring.31 As the Italian island of Lampedusa is the closest geographic point of
Europe to Africa, refugees have now been arriving on Italian soil for years. 32
Although Italy initially treated refugee migration as a seasonal problem, as the
vast majority of refugees had been making the voyage during the summer
months, the recent escalation has signaled a much larger problem for the
already overwhelmed state, which never found an initial w ay to efficiently pr
ocess and handle the growing number of asylum seekers.33
Italy has been widely criticized for failing to properly identify migrants
that arrive on its shores, particularly with regard to fingerprinting. 34 Part of the
problem stems from the mandate that refugees stay in the country in which
they first submit an asylum request ; to bypass this requirement and keep open
the option to move elsewhere, many migrants refuse to have their fingerprints
taken.35 Beyond the identification issue, there exists a contentious debate
regarding the adequacy of Italy?s general handling of the crisis. 36 Proponents of
Italy?s efforts point to the ?Mare Nostrum? operation: a yearlong program that
required the Italian navy to rescue migrants traveling by boat in the Sicilian
channel.37 This project is estimated to have saved approximately 190,000 pe
ople.38 Additionally, the Italian government has decriminalized illegal immigr
ation, meaning that migrants traveling by sea are not arrested upon their arrival
on Italian land.39
Setting the overarching policy debate aside, the statistics are a sobering
reminder that there is no end in sight for Italy. 40 The relatively small
percentage of migrants staying in the welcome centers is the segment of the
population that actually applies for asylum: in 2014, 64,900 refugees applied, which
is only one third of the number save d by the navy. 41 From there, the judiciary
was only able to decide on half of the applications, which is almost irrelevant
in light of the fact that appeals are slow enough to allow even those who are
rejected to stay in the country for years. 42 Even a refugee with a rare deport
ation order does not have a difficult time staying; in 2014, Italy deported only
6944 people. 43 Italy?s close geographic proximity to North Africa, lack of co
nsistent identification procedures, and policies that facilitate both the arrival of
migrants and their indefinite stay , solidify its position as a central fixture in the
refugee crisis with little sign of impending change.44
A. Smuggling, Service Contracts, and Subsidies:
Making Them Offers They Can?t Refuse
On March 21, 2011, a large Egyptian fishing boat approached the eastern
coast of Sicily, stopping twelve nautical miles from the seaside town of
Riposto.45 The boat was carrying 190 migrants, primarily Egyptian and several
Libyan, and nineteen crewmembers.46 At around 3:30 a.m., as two small
fishing boats were approaching the larger vessel with the anticipation of receiving
the migrants, the Italian coast guard arrived and intervened, arresting the
crewmembers and taking the migrants on board.47
Before this particular instance in which the authorities intercepted the m
igrants, operations of this nature had become routine thanks to a high-ranking
Sicilian Mafioso?s decision to collaborate with a notorious North African
smuggler.48 The investigation that culminated in thsi sting began five years
prior when a migrant, uponhis arrival in Italy, told police he overheard a
crewman discussing a man who was organizing the smuggling of immigrants
in Egypt.49 This man is Salvatore Greco, thesixty-one-year-old head of the
Brunetto mafia clan of Riposto, Sicily. 50 As it turns out, Greco had teamed up
with Egyptian smuggler Mohamed Arafa Badawi and his son, Sayd, to form
ulate an arrangement in which Badawi and his son facilitated the refugee vo
yages from Northern Africa to the Italian coast, and Greco supplied motorboats
to bring the migrants to shore, hide them, and secure their transportation to
In attempting to assess just how profitable migrant smuggling is, Italian
prosecutors estimate that the mafia has tapped i nto a multi-billion dollar bus
iness.52 In the scheme described above, Badawi charged each migrant between
three and six thousand dollars for the voyage from North Africa to Sicily,
meaning that a single journey with two hundred migrants on board could ge
nerate at least $600,000.53 From a financial standpoint, the arrangement is
almost entirely risk-free because the money is collected upfront and the
smugglers, who have already been paid, are largely unconcerned with whether the
boats actually make it to their destination.54
The profits certainly do not stop at the shoreline; the mafia has found
ways to cash in on the plight of the refugees every step of the way, including
housing them upon arrival in Italy and securing additional transportation to
northern Europe, where the prospect of employment is compellingfor manyof
the migrants.55 Yet the most lucrative aspect of the refugee crisis is likely the
management of migrant centers across Italy. 56 Sicily alone is home to six go
vernment-funded camps. 57 When corrupt government officials award contracts
to mafia-controlled companies to provide food, clothing, and medicine to the
migrant camps, the mafia provides cheaper services to the centers than other
commercial companies would, profiting from the difference.58
These service contracts are valuable, especially at Mineo,oneof thelargest
migrant centers in Sicily that houses four thousand refugees.59 The government
subsidizes Mineo?s operation by providing forty euros per dayfor eachadult and
eighty euros per day for each child, which is intended to cover food, shelter,
education, and general upkeep. 60 This amounts to an annual budget of ?98 million
for Mineo alone.61 Because the refugees at Mineo are in the long process of
waiting for their asylum applications to be processed, and the flow of migrants
into the centers is seemingly endless as the refugee crisis marches on, there
appears to be no end in sight as the mafia continues to cash in on the camps.62
B. More Migrants, More Money, More Problems
As investigations swirl around the legality of the operation and service
provision contracts for the migrant centers, additional problems are simmering
just below the surface: poor living conditions, human rights violations, and
criminal activity inside the camps? walls.63 At Mineo, reports of exploitation
and abuse have surfaced through testimonies gathered outside of the camp,
which tell of scarce food supplies, overcrowded sleeping areas, lack of health
services, withheld daily allowances, bullying, and intimidation.64 Located in
rural Sicily, the facility was formerly used as a residential complex forU.S.
military personnel. 65 It is presently surrounded by a twelve-foot high fence and
secured by armed guards at the entrance, which, coupled with the atmosphere
officials in order to secure contracts to manage refugee accommodation, as well as Rome?s parks and
waste collection services. Id. In a wiretapped phone call, with regard to the refugee crisis, suspected
collaborator Salvatore Buzzistated that?drug trafficking earns less? thanthe?immigrationbusiness.?
Id. He further stated: ?We closed this year with turnover of [$50 million], but . . . our profits all ca me
from the gypsies, the housing emergency and the immigrants . . . .? Id. (alterations in original).
57 Tondo, supra note 45.
58 Id.; see Reguly, supra note 5.
59 Tondo, supra note 45.
62 See id.; Reguly, supra note 5.
63 See Niccolo Zancan, Sicilian Mafia Cashes in on Desperate Immigrants, STAMPA (Mar. 13,
64 Gianluca Mezzofiore, Mediterranean Migrants Meet the Mafia at Sicily?s Kafkaesque Min eo
Camp, INT?L BUS. TIMES (Apr. 2
, 11:13 AM
of fear and intimidation, has generated criticism that the center is reminiscent
of a concentration camp.66
The mafia?s lucrative tactics of skimping on the provision of services is
readily apparent in the daily lives of the migrants living in the camps. 67 For the
many migrants at Mineo, eating a steady diet of low-quality pasta and rice,
wearing the same clothes since their arrival in Italy, and sharing a small room
with six to eight people and no ventilation are all symptoms of the same
problem of mafia o peration.68 Often the small daily allowance of ?2.50, intended to
be used to purchase SIM cards, never reaches the migrants because the
administrators frequently pocket the money and give out cigarettes instead.69 If the
allowance actually reaches the migran ts, it does so in the form of an electronic
card that can only be used at the center?s store, again benefitting the corrupt
The director of the center claims that frustration and unrest can bet-a
tributed to the long asylum application process, and not to the quality of life
within the camp?s walls. 71 Ironically, this application process also funnels
profits to the mafia?s Mineo scheme. 72 Not only does the long duration of the pr
ocess ensure that migrants stay long enough for a steady stream of government
subsidies to flow into mafia pockets, but there is also money to be made in
charging the migrants for rides back and forth to Catania, where asylum
seekers must go to fill out all of the necessary paperwork. 73 Further contributing to
instability and unrest at Mineo is the underlying threat of riots. 74 Perhaps
unsurprising in light of the living conditions at the center, eleven riots broke out
at Mineo in 2014 alone. 75 There is also an added dimension of racism fueling
the tension between admini strators and inhabitants; in one instance, a group of
migrants set fire to a Red Cross tent after Red Cross members used racial slurs
towards one of the refugees. 76
66 Id. (?[Activist Alfonso] Di Stefano, who accuses the [asylum] commission of steering clear of
the centre for fear of riots, calls Mineo ?the biggest segregation camp in Europe? and explains that
Italian authorities have imposed a regime of fear and intimidation ?akin to that used in the Nazi
concentration camp? with kapos, or privileged insiders, heading each community of migrants,controlling
every aspect of their lives.?).
67 See id.
70 Perry & Agius, supra note 6.
71 Mezzofiore, supra note 64. Sebastiano Maccarrone, the director of Mineo, claims it is a
?respectable centre,? stating, ?[t]he migrants don?t need money, we provide them with everything they
need to live in the camp. The constant presence of police guarantees that law and order is
respetced. . . . People are frustrated because they have to wait at least 12 months to get a response.?Id.
73 Id.; see Zancan, supra note 63.
74 See Mezzofiore, supra note 64.
In addition to creating a vicious cycle of poverty and unrest, the centers
also breed illegal activity.77 Receiving little to no daily allowance, migrants
resort to lining up at 7 :00 a.m. to board trucks that will take them to work on
the surrounding orange and tomato fields. 78 The arrangement is risky because
it is illegal and all money is exchanged completely under the table, and the
migrants are only paid between one and three euros per hour for their labor. 79
The mafia has also entrusted the migrants with drug dealing within the center
and in nearby towns, and often forces the migrant women into prostitution.80 It
therefore goes without saying that Mineo and other mafia -run migrant centers
have become breeding grounds for instability, illicit activity, and human rights
violations.81 Although Italy?s parliament is coming to this realization, it
ermains to be seen whether action will follow, and how much more the mafia
stands to gain in the meantime.82
C. Sicily?s Solution: International Law, Domestic
Proceedings, or Something Else
The collision of the mafia and the migrant crisis has ushered in a new
wave of problems related to the exploitation of refugees. 83 Not only is there an
overarching problem of mafia operation with regard to human trafficking and
illegally securing contracts to operate migrant centers, but also the tangential,
ground-level issues of growing poverty, rumblings of revolt, unbearable living
conditions, drug pushing, and prostitution. 84 The solution, therefore, must have
77 See id.
78 Id.; Perry & Agius, supra note 6; Zancan, supra note 63.
79 Zancan, supra note 63.
80 Tondo, supra note 45; Zancan, supra note 63. Prostitutionhasbecomeparticularlyproblematic
both in and around the camps. See Zancan, supra note 63 (?The first thing a visitor is asked when
arriving at the gates to Europe?s largest center for asylum seekers is: ?Do you want one girl, or two??
It is not a misunderstanding between the visitor and the four Eritrean migrants standing in the dark in
front of Italian army trucks . . . . There are girls for sale on side streets, or are sometimes brought into
the city where they can earn more.?).
81 See Zancan, supra note 63; see also Mark Townsend, Child Migrants in SicilyMustOvercome
One Last Obstacle?the Mafia, GUARDIAN: OBSERVER (July 23, 2016, 7:06 PM),https://www.
perma.cc/7LEF-27NV] (?Children held there describeintenseovercrowdingandcrampedrooms hol
ding five to six. Some live inside the remote facility for as long as 18 months, usually finding it a
wretched experience. The centre has been plagued with allegations of prostitution, drug use and vi
82 See Perry & Agius, supra note 6. Certain Italian government officials are beginning to realize
the gravity of the situation inside the migrant campsI.d. (?After an inspection this May, deputy
Erasmo Mansion called Mineo ?a scary sort of limbo?, ?a symbol of opacity?, ?a black hole? and ?a
humanitarian time bomb? and demanded it be closed.?).
83 See id.
84 See id.; Mezzofiore, supra note 64.
the capacity to curtail the mafia?s windfalls while simultaneously safeguarding
both the legal protections and human rights of the migrants.85
Certain documents in the realm of international law aim to articulate the
rights of refugees, or explain what constitutes human rights and their
corersponding violations.86 But do these mechanisms adequately address the
economic component of this problem?87 Can identifying and safeguarding the
rights of the migrants translate to weakening the financial stronghold of the
mafia?88 On the other hand, Italian prosecutors believe that decades of exper
ience have made them the best equipped to handle the mafia; but will the inve
stigation and subsequent prosecution of top Mafiosi also guarantee the safety
and well-being of the refugee populations affected?89
85 See Eleanor Acer & Jake Goodman,Reaffirming Rights: Human Rights Protections of
Migrants, Asylum Seekers, and Refugees in Immigration Detention, 24 GEO. IMMIGR. L.J. 507, 507?11
(2010); Mezzofiore, supra note 64.
86 See, e.g., Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, Jan. 31, 1967, 19 U.S.T. 6223, 606
U.N.T.S. 267; Convention R elating to the Status of Refugees, July 28, 1951, 189 U.N.T.S. 150 [her
einafter 1951 Refugee Convention]; G.A. Res. 217 (III) A, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(Dec. 10, 1948). The Conference of the Plenipotentiaries prescribed in a resolution to the draft Prot
ocol Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons that:
C. The Conference, Considering that, in the moral, legal and material spheres, refugees
need the help of suitable welfare services, especially that of appropriate
nongovernmental organizations: Recommends Governments andinter -governmental bodies
to facilitate, encourage and sustain the efforts of properly qualified organizations.
D. The Conference, Considering that many persons still leave their countryof originfor
reasons of persecution and are entitled to special protectiononaccountoftheirposition,
Recommends that Governments continue to receive refugees in their territories andthat
they act in concert in a true spirit of international co- operation in order that these ref
ugees may find asylum and the possibility of resettlement.
U.N. Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Status of Refugees and Stateless Persons, Final Act and
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (July 25, 1951), http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/protection/
87 See Pierre-Michel Fontaine, The 1951 Conventionandthe1957ProtocolRelatingtotheStatus
of Refugees: Evolution and Relevance for Today , 2 INTERCULTURAL HUM. RTS. L. REV.149,149? 51
(2007). Many critics of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1957 Protocol Relating to the Status of
Refugees argue that these documents are inapplicable to present refugee situations, and that certain
improvements could make these documents more workable in the modern context. See id.
88 See id.; Perry & Agius, supra note 6.
89 See Acer & Goodman, supra note 85, at 507?11; Perry & Agius, supra note 6 (?If there is
hope, much of it seems to lie with Italy?s elite anti -Mafia prosecutors, who have begun to argue that,
since people smuggling is a form of organised crime, and since it affects Italy, this human disaster
comes under their jurisdiction. Fabio Licata, a Palermo judge, . . . says in this case Italy?s long exper
ience of the Mafia works to its advantage: ?We have the best organised crime investigators in Europe,
even better than the US,? he says. ?Other countries in Europe deal with people smugglers as a police
problem or a problem of public order. But this is about crimes against humanity, smuggling, money
laundering, even terrorism. We know these phenomena. We know how to fight it. We achievee-r
Enter the Dublin regulations: initially coming into force in the Irish cap
ital in 1990 as the Dublin Convention, the law has been amended several times
since in order to address subsequent problems. 90 The current version ?known
as Dublin III ?has the legal status of a regulation and is binding upon member
nations, which include the EU in its entirety plus Iceland, Lichtenstein,
Norway, and Switzerland. 91 The Dublin regulations function as the portion of EU
law that dictates which member states are charged with processing the asylum
requests of refugees. 92 The general rule established by the Dublin regulations
stipulates that the country through which the asylum seeker first enters the u
nion is tasked with taking fingerprints and processing the asylum application. 93
Because the country of entry has already assumed these responsibilities,
migrants who move further into Europe are sent back to their respective
responsible nations in what are known as Dublin transfers.94
The rationale behind the implementation of this scheme is an attempt to
ensure that only one country is responsible for proces sing each individual as
ylum seeker?s application.95 This policy, in theory, discourages migrants from
moving across multiple countries to present their cases, or
shopping.?96 It was also intended to prevent situations where migrants simply
?orbit? around the EU without any single country having accountability for
their cases. 97 To these ends, the Dublin system also includes the E urodac
database, which stores the fingerprints of all asylum seekers who complete the re
gistration process upon arrival in the European Economic Area (EEA ): the EU,
plus Lichtenstein, Iceland, and Norway. 98 This archive allows immigration a
uthorities across Europe to determine where an individual asylum-seeker has
applied, and whether applications have been lodged in multiple countries.99
Perhaps the most contentious piece of the Dublin legislation is
theerquirement that asylum seekers be sent back to the country in which they first
filed an application, which is typically the country through which they first
entered the EEA. 100 Several Grand Chamber judgments from the ECtHR illu
trate how the Dublin transfers operate in practice, and also highlight some of
the complications and difficulties that arise from the send back provision.101
D. Dublin Decisions and the State of the ?Send Back? Provision
1. Suspension of Transfers to Greece in the Wake of M.S.S.
In early 2008, Afghan national M.S.S. left Kabul and travelled to Greece
via Iran and Turkey.102 After entering the EU through Greece, he arrived in
Belgium on February 10, 2009 and subsequently applied for asylum there. 103
Pursuant to the Dublin regulations, the Belgian Aliens Office submitted a r
equest to Greece to take responsibility for processing M.S.S.?s request for
asylum.104 While his case was pending, the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees wrote a letter to the Belgian Minister for Migration and Asylum
Policy, criticizing the process and recommending that all transfers to Greece be
suspended in light of deficiencies in Greece?s asylum procedure and the cond
itions of reception of migrants in Greece. 105 Despite this recommendation, and
without any acknowledgement from Greek officials, the Belgian immigration
authorities ordered M.S.S. back to Greece in May of 2009, arguing that
Belgium was not responsible for handling M.S.S.?s case, and that they believed
that Greece would meet its obligations in processing the case.106
Upon lodging an appeal with the Aliens Appeals Board, M.S.S. argued
that if returned to Greece he would face the risk of detention in appalling
conditions, that there were significant deficiencies in the Greek asylum system,
and that he feared being sent back to Afghanistan without a proper
examination of his reasons for leaving, which included his escape from a Taliban
murder attempt.107 His application was again rejected, and he was transferred to
Greece on June 15, 2009. 108 When he arrived at Athens International Airport,
he was detained in an adjacent building where he was locked in a small area
with twenty other detainees who had restricted toilet access, could not leave
for fresh air, were given very little food, and had to sleep either on the floor or
on dirty mattresses. 109 Once he was released with an asylum seeker?s card on
June 18, he lived on the streets with no subsistenc1e1.0 After attempting to
leave Greece with a fake identification card, he was arrested and returned to
the detention center next to the airport, where he was allegedly beaten by the
police.111 Upon his release one week later, he returned to the streets where he
occasionally received aid from the local church and residents, and although
steps were allegedly taken to find him accommodation, he was never offered
The portion of this case that pertains to the present discussion is the
applicant?s complaint that returning him to Greece, where he was subjected to
deplorable detention conditions and living conditions, constituted a violation
of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. 113 He not only a
lleged that the situation in Greece amounted toa violation of the prohibition
against inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, but also that Belgium
had committed a violation in having exposed him to such conditions by
sending him back.114
In rendering its decision, the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR
caknowledged the burden the refugee crisis has placed on EU border states, particularly
with regard to receiving migrants and asylumseekers at major international
airports.115 However, the court found that this burden ultimately does not a
bsolve Greece of ist obligations under Article 31.16 The court noted that the
complaint of the widespread practice of Greek authorities detaining asylum
seekers without explanation, as well as the allegations concerning unsanitary
living conditions and overcrowding, were corroborated by the reports of wi
tnesses, international organizations, the European Committee for the Prevention
of Torture, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.117
The court ultimately found that the conditions in Greece were unaccept
able, that the applicant?s detention was anxiety -inducing and undoubtedly had a
profound impact on his sense of dignity, and that as an asylum -seeker, he was
particularly vulnerable in light of his migration and traumatic experiences. 118
Taken together, the court held that these circumstances amounted to a violation
of Article 3. 119 Additionally, the court found that because the facts regarding
the conditions in Greece were well known and ascertainable from a number of
sources, Belgium was also in violation of Article 3 in light of the Belgian a
uthorities?decision to knowingly expose him to living conditions that amounted
to degrading treatment. 120 Following this judgment, all Dublin transfers from
other member states to Greece were suspended, and despite mounting EU
pressure on Greece to accept Dublin returns, they have remained frozen ever
since.121 Pursuant to the plan the European Commission announced in Dece
mber 2016, member states had the option to send migrants back to Greece
starting in mid -March of 2017. 122 Although gaining some traction in countries such
as Germany, which announced its decision to begin returning arriving asylum
seekers to Greece, the commission?s recommendation has been widely
criticized in light of the unimproved and unsafe situation in Greece by the Greek
government, non-governmental organizations, human rights organizations, and
refugees themselves. 123 This criticism culminated in the Greek migration mi
nister?s announcement at the end of March 2017 that Greece cannot, and will
not, resume acceptance of returned refugees.124
120 Id. at 341.
121 See EU: Pressure on Greece for Dublin Returns Is ?Hypocritical ,? AMNESTY INT?L (Dec. 8
2016, 12:48 PM), https:
//www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/12/eu-pressure-on-greece-for-dublinreturns-is-hypocritical/[https://perma.cc/WY37-2SN4]; Greek Council for Refugees, Dublin Statistics
2016, ASYLUM INFO. DATABASE,
122 See EU: Pressure on Greece for Dublin Returns Is ?Hypocritical,? supra note 121.
123 See Patrick Strickland & Anealla Safdar, Concern Over EU Plans to Send Refugees Back to
Greece, AL JAZEERA (Jan.16,2017),http:
//www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/01/concern-euplans-send-refugees-greece-170114162243125.html [https://perma.cc/9FBJ-Z4HS]; seealso EU
Restarts Asylum Seeker Returns to Greece , DEUTCHE WELLE
(Mar. 15, 2017)
eu-restarts-asylum-seeker-returns-to-greece/a-37939811 [https://perma.cc/GB3D-ACC3]. Pursuant to
the European Commission?s December2016recommendation,Germanybegansendingnewly -arrived
asylum seekers back to Greece as of March 15, 2017, if that was their initial point of entry.EU
Restarts Asylum Seeker Returns to Greece, supra. This resumption of Dublin transfers from Germany
specifically excludes the return of vulnerable asylum applicants, such as unaccompanied minors. Id.
Further, the European Commission?s recommendation cautions that applicants should only
beerturned to Greece if Greek authorities are able to assure that each individual applicant will beappropr
iately handled in accordance with EU law. Id.
124 ?We Reached Our Limits?: Greece to Stop Taking Back Refugees?Migration Minister, RT
(Mar. 26, 2017)
2. Refusal to Extend Blanket Suspension to Italy Following Tarakhel v.
While the situation in Greece has been alleviated by an ECtHR judgment,
Italy has not had similar success.125 In July 2011, a family of seven Afghani
nationals traveled by boat from Turkey to Italy, landing on the coast of
aClabria on July 16.126 After supplying false identities, the family members had
their photographs and fingerprints taken pursuant to the Eurodac identification
procedure.127 They were detained for ten days in a reception facility, where
their true identities were established, and then transferred to another facility. 128
The applicants left the Italian facility without permission on July 28, traveled
to Austria, and registered in theEurodac system for a second time1.29 The
family submitted an application for asylum that was ultimately rejected, and
theAustrian authorities requested that Italy reassume responsibility for the
applicants.130 Although the request was accepted and the applicants were,
intheory, supposed to return to Italy, the family travelled to Switzerland and lodged
another asylum application.131 There, they were interviewed by the Federal
Migration Office, which decided not to move forward in processing the case
and deemed Italy the appropriate member state to do so.132
After several additional unsuccessful attempts to have their application
processed in Switzerland, the applicants requested an interim measure from the
ECtHR suspending their deportation. 133 The applicants alleged in relevant part
that if they were returned to Italy without guarantees regarding their care, they
would face inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 3 in light of the
conditions that asylum seekers faced in Italy.134 The family also alleged that
their return to Italy would deprive them of their right to respect for private and
family life under Article 8, as they had no connections to Italy and did not speak
Italian, and further, that the Swiss authorities were in violation of Article 13 in
not giving due consideration to their personal circumstances as a family.135
125 See ECtHR: General Suspension of Dublin Transfers to Italy Not Justified,NEW EUROPE
126 Tarakhel, App. No. 29217/12, Eur. Ct. H.R. para. 10.
129 Id. para. 12.
131 Id. paras. 12?13.
132 Id. paras. 14?15.
133 Id. paras. 19?20.
134 Id. para. 53.
135 Id. paras. 54, 56. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides:
(1) Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his
In evaluating the family?s claim pursuant to Article 3, the court
acknowledged that both the reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Re
fugees and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe
pointed to various failings in Italy?s reception of asylum seekers, noting in pa
rticular the wide discrepancy between the number of asylum applications and
the number of available spaces in the reception facilities. 136 Although the court
was aware of the fact that living conditions in the facilities were problematic, it
specifically noted that the reports did not include mention of widespread
violence or completely deplorable conditions, and that the Italian authorities had
been making efforts to improve reception conditions.137
In rendering its decision, much of the court?s attention was devoted to the
fact that the applicants involved in the present case were children belonging to
a family. 138 The court emphasized the notion that asylum seekers are entitled to
special protection under Article 3 as a vulnerable population group, and that
special protection is particularly important where children are concerned, even
if accompanied by parents. 139 The court found that in light of the risk that as
ylum seekers sent back to Italy could be left without accommodation orc-a
commodated in overcrowded facilities with poor living conditions, the Swiss
authorities had an obligation to ensure that if returned, the Italian authorities
could guarantee that the family would be placed in facilities and conditions
appropriate for the children, and that the family would not be separate d14.0
Thus, the court held that sending the family back to Italy without these assu
rances would constitute an Article 3 violation.141
Unlike the outcome in M.S.S. v. Belgium , the court did not find in
Tarakhel v. Switzerland that the situation in Italy with regard to migrant reception
warranted a general suspension of all Dublin transfers back to Ital y14.2 The
judgment therefore largely le aves the decision of whether or not to undertake a
(2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right
except such as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in
the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well -being of the
country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, orfor
the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
European Convention on Human Rights, supra note 113, art. 8. Article 13 reads: ?Everyone whose
rights and freedoms as set forth in this convention are violated shall have an effectiveremedybeforea
national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in anoff
icial capacity.? Id. art. 13.
136 Tarakhel, App No. 29217/12, Eur. Ct. H.R. para. 114.
138 See id. para. 119.
140 Id. paras. 121?22.
141 Id. para. 122.
142 See id. para. 114; ECtHR: General Suspension of Dublin Transfers to Italy Not Justified,
supra note 125; see also M.S.S., 2011-I Eur. Ct. H.R. at 306.
Dublin transfer to Italy in the hands of member states1.43 Given the various
legal repercussions that a state may be exposed to as a result of requesting
Dublin transfers and the procedure through whichthe authorities conduct
them, the significant amount of state discretion in Dublin transfers to Italyafter
Tarakhel ultimately raises several unanswered questions. 144
A. Deconstructing Dublin
The current system established under the Dublin regulat ions is unsustai
nable.145 Although this portion of EU law was designed to harmonize asylum
policy and procedure across the EEA, Dublin III is problematic in its inability
to handle the present refugee crisis, disproportionate impact on particular
member states that fall on Europe?s borders, hindrance to permanent settlement
and integration, and failure to take into account the circumstances in Italy that
have given rise to the mafia?s stronghold on asylum seekers. 146 While the sol
ution to the problem of mafia exploitation of migrants may very well lie in
reforming Dublin, it is necessary to first understand where exactly the Dublin
regulations have fallen short.147
The most recently amended version of the Dublin regulations entered into
force in January 2014. 148 At the time of the consultations over the latest round
of changes, it would have been difficult to forecast the speed at which the re
fugee crisis would accelerate in the period that followed1.49 For example, in
2012, the number of asylum applicants hovered around 330,001050. In the
fourth quarter of 2015 alone, Europe was bombarded with 426,000
applications.151 Unsurprisingly, 2015 set the record for highest number of asylum a
pplications in any single year with 1.3 million refugees applying forasylum
across the EU.
152 Although 2016
saw a reduction in the total number of asylum
seekers entering the EU, the backlog of pending applications surpassed one
million and is expected to continue growing. 153 From a sheer numbers
perspective, the initial Dublin regulations were not designed to handle this volume of
asylum applications and even the various rounds of amendments cannot keep
up with complexities that have since arisen due to the multitude of applications
ushered in by the refugee crisis.154
Even more problematic is the fact that the burden associated with the high
volume of applications is not spread out evenly across the EU. 155 Because the
Dublin system mandates that the member state responsible for processing an
asylum seeker?s application be the country through which the individual first
entered Europe, member states that happen to be popular entry points, namely
borders, are disproportionately affected by the regulations. 156 Not only do these
states have the task of processing an overwhelmingnumber of applications,
but they also must be able to sustain a growing population. 157 Border countries
such as Greece and Italy are already constrained in terms of resources, so their
ability to process applications swiftly and ensure that asylumseekers have
their basic needs met has become increasingly unlikely, if not already
Although Dublin was intended to ensure consistent application of a un
iform asylum policy throughout the EU, disparities in reception centers and
resource availability among member nations have threatened this goal. 159 Vast
differences in living standards, job opportunities, and access to government
services incentivize migrants to attempt to move further into Europe. 160 With a
high national unemployment rate following the financial crisis and a limited
welfare system, asylum seekers who land in Italy face difficulty in securing, at
best, a minimum level of income and basic housing.161 Norway, on the other
hand, boasts an organized system of 130 reception centers and low
unemployment rates stemming from its healthy oil economy. 162 When asylum seekers are
accepted, they complete a two -year comprehensive introductory program that
includes language lessons and job training, receive extensive welfare benefits
plus an additional salary, and are afforded a wide range of social rights.163
Aware of this type of glaring discrepancy from country -to-country, many
migrants attempt to land in Italy unnoticed by immigration authorities in an
effort to evade the registration and fingerprin ting process. 164 If successful, they
can move on to other European countries with better reception conditions and
welfare systems.165 If unsuccessful, the migrants are effectively tied to Italy,
and the risk of leaving corresponds to a risk of wasting time and valuable
resources if ultimately sent back via a Dublin transfe1r.66 This places asylum
160 See id. See generally Factbox: Benefits Offered to Asylum Seekers in European Countries,
REUTERS (Sept. 1
, 8:20 AM),
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-migrants-benefitsfactbox-idUSKCN0RG1MJ20150916[ https://perma.cc/TN8L-SGAC] (demonstratingthat
thebenefits migrants are entitled to claim with regard to financial support, employment, housing, education,
and family reunification vary significantly across Europe).
161 See Brekke, supra note 95, at 149?53.
162 See id.
163 See id. Although seemingly one of the more attractive destinations for asylum seekers, right
wing crackdowns on immigration policy in Norway in the form of disincentives and the threat of
deportation have made these benefits even less attainable. See DavidCrouch, Norway?sAsylumPolicy
in Chaos Amid Russian Intransigen,ceGUARDIAN (Jan. 24, 2016, 11:48 AMh)ttps://www.
[https://perma.cc/D3ZN-YR36]; see also Willa Frej, One Country?s Scheme to Cut Down on Asylum
Seekers: Pay Them to Leave, WORLD POST (Apr. 28, 2016, 4:05 PM), http://www.huffingtonpost.
[https://perma.cc/PHL5A923]. In 2016, Norway implemen ted a program in which the first five hundred people to apply for
asylum between April 25 and June 6 received thirty thousand Norwegian kroner (NOK), a free plane
ticket to their home countries, and an extra ten thousand NOK for each child under the age of
eighteen. Frej, supra.
164 See, e.g., Brekke, supra note 95, at 155 (?We interviewed a group of young Eritrean men who
had arrived in Lampedusa on a boat carrying 54 asylum seekers. While at sea, everyone had agreedto
collectively resist having their fingerprints taken once they arrived. This resulted in a confrontation
between government officials and these new arrivals. In the end, they wereall f ingerprintedandregi
stered. Others told us they had, before reaching the shore, planned to run in different directions and
hide to avoid detection and registration . . . .?).
165 See id.
166 See id. at 156 (?According to staff at the reception centres, NGO personnel and the asylum
seekers themselves, being sent back after living for months or even years inother [DublinRegulation]
countries could set them back: they would have to re-start their integration process in Italy, and the
mental strain was considerable. . . . A group of five residents of the shantytown outsideRomeagreed:
?We want to go anywhere else. We have all been outside the country and been returned here. It is
impossible because of Dublin. All people that leave come back, from Norwayand Swedenas well.??).
seekers in a constant state of limbo. 167 Uncertain as to their final destinations
and whether they will remain in Italy for good, migrants have little incentive to
integrate into Italian society, learn the language, secure housing, or seek
longterm employment. 168 This loominguncertaintyandunrest across
Europeancountries, especially in Italy, breeds instability and undermines the entire European
asylum regime under Dublin.169 The reception systems, welfare schemes, and
government service programs of various member nations are deeply entrenched
in national politics and thus unlikely to undergo any radical changes in the near
future.170 This is especially true in border countries such aIstaly where
resources are already spread thin.171 Therefore, harmony in asylum policy and
increased migrant integration can only be achieved if Dublin adapts
accordingly, taking into consideration the critical differences among member nations that
impact asylum procedure at the national level.172
This point raises another major criticism of Dublin that goes to the heart
of the present analysis: the Dublin system, and more specifically the judgments
of the ECtHR pertaining to Dublin, does not accountorf the present (and
worsening) situation in Italy that has resulted from the relatively recent
phenomenon of mafia exploitation.173 Following M.S.S. v. Belgium, all Dublin
transfers via the send back provision were suspended. 174 In rendering the
decision that catalyzed this suspension, the court acknowledged that Article 3 of
the European Convention on Human Rights does not require that member
states secure a certain standard of living for refugees through the provision of
financial assistance. 175 However, the court found that M.S.S.?s circumstances
were characterized by extreme poverty, an inability to meet his basic needs of
food, hygiene, and housing, and living in a constant state of fear of being
attacked or robbed. 176 On the contrary, in Tarakhel v. Switzerland, the court did
not find that the conditions in Italy merited a general suspension of transfers,
as the situation at that time was not comparable to that in Greece.177
Whether or not this was the correct outcome at the time of the decision in
2014?which is certainly debatable?it definitely does not hold true today. 178
In rendering its decision regarding the conditions in Italy, the court relied
primarily upon reports from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, both
published in 2012. 179 The present reality is that Italy is unfit for returns. 180 Given
the long delays in the processing of asylum applications, exploitation of
migrants, and egregious human rights problems within the centers, al l
perpetuated by the mafia, sending asylum seekers back to Italy through Dublin transfers
today almost certainly constitutes a violation of Article 3, akin to the violation
found in M.S.S. v. Belgium.181
B. Reforming Dublin: A Solution the Mafia Cannot Afford
The mafia?s ability to sustain its lucrative business of profiting off of
migrants directly corresponds to Dublin?s flaws. 182 The current system established
under Dublin effectively traps refugees in Italy upon arrival by mandating first
entry registration and asylum application. 183 Further, Dublin keeps the migrants
there indefinitely by overburdening Italy with applications, thereby cloggingup
the pipeline and slowing down the whole process, which essentially gives the
mafia more time and opportunities to make money.184 Finally, Dublin ensures
that even if migrants do manage to escape from the mafia by leaving Italy, they
are sent right back via Dublin?s option to return to the first point of entry.185
1. Eliminate the First Country of Entry Asylum Application Requirement
As a starting point, the requirement that asylum seekers must apply for
asylum in the country through which they first entered the European Union
should be abandoned.186 This does not necessarily require an overhaul of the
Eurodac registration and fingerprinting system in place; on the contrary, lea
ving this system intact will allow member states to continue to access a single,
centralized database of information, and also promotes transparency and
accountability by ideally collecting reliable dat a about all refugees entering E
urope and ensuring that people do not fall through the cracks during the initial
phase of asylum proceedings.187 The crucial difference, however, should be
that the registration process, which includes the taking of photographs and
fingerprinting, is kept separate from the application process. 188 In this ideal sc
enario, migrants would be registered upon entry into Europe, but would then
have the freedom to move elsewhere and choose where to lodge a single
asylum application, thus streamlining the process and simultaneously giving as
ylum seekers increased autonomy over their ultimate place of residence.189
This reform would also deal a major blow to the mafia.190 The primary
reason the mafia has been able to make millions of dollars off of the refugee
crisis is the sheer volume of migrants living in Italy, primarily in the
mafiacontrolled centers.191 Because the government essentially pays the mafia to
take care of the migrants on a per -person basis, fewer people becoming trapped
in the camps upon arrival means fewer daily allowances the mafia can
withhold, and fewer services they can contract to deliver and then provide
sparingly.192 Simply put, if the migrant centers aren?t full, the mafia loses money.193
Further, because this change would result in a more even distribution of
asylum applications across the EU, Italy would no longer be overburdened
with a disproportionate amount of applications to process. 194 Consequently, the
time the migrants spend in limbo at the camps would be severely reduced.195
This is another way to curtail mafia proceeds, as the current nationwide delays
in application processing have allowed the mafia to profit off of each individ
ual asylum applicant for a prolonged period of time. 196 Additionally, the groups
of migrants already in the camps would ideally have their applications
porcessed more quickly.197
187 See Brekke, supra note 95, at 147.
188 See id. at 155. Keeping these components separate would resolve the problem of migrants
attempting to enter the EU undetected. See id.
189 See Williams, supra note 147, at 10?11.
190 See id.; see also Reguly, supra note 5. Increased movement further into Europe ensures that
the mafia cannot hold refugees captive for its own prolonged financial gain. See Williams, supra note
147, at 10?11.
191 See Mezzofiore, supra note 64; Reguly, supra note 5.
192 See Mezzofiore, supra note 64; Reguly, supra note 5.
193 See Perry & Agius, supra note 6.
194 See Williams, supra note 147, at 15?16.
195 See Mezzofiore, supra note 64.
196 See id.; Williams, supra note 147, at 9.
197 See Mezzofiore, supra note 64; Williams, supra note 147, at 9.
2. Prohibit or Suspend All Dublin Transfers to Italy
Secondly, the portion of the Dublin regulations that allows member
nations to send asylum seekers back to the country through which they initially
entered the EU should be eliminated, or at the very least, all Dublin transfers to
Italy should be suspended in the same manner as transfers to Greece were su
spended following the ECtHR?s judgment in M.S.S. v. Belgium.198 Again, the
current scheme places a disproportionate burden upon states that happen to fall
on Europe?s borders. 199 The present system is unsustainable, as many asylum
seekers are being sent back to the very countries where resources, welfare
services, and spaces in reception centers are most severely limited.200
It has become unavoidably clear that living conditions in the m-afia
controlled reception centers are poor enough to warrant this suspensio2n0.1
While this may not have been the case at the time the ECtHR decided
Tarakhel, it certainly is now. 202 Ongoing economic exploitation of vulnerable groups
of refugees, coupled with systematic human rights abuses in the centers,
undoubtedly translates to a violation of Article 3 on the part of any country
attempting to send asylum seekers back to Italy.203 If another case involving a
Dublin transfer reaches the ECtHR prior to an amendment or a complete ove
rhaul of Dublin, the court should wholeheartedly support a general prohibition
of this nature. 204 Again, this would reduce mafia windfalls significantly, as It
aly has been the recipient of the largest number of incoming transfer requests
from other member nations. 205 Ensuring that asylum seekers do not end up back
in the reception centers directly correlates to less revenue in mafia pockets.206
Reforming the Dublin regulations in these two crucial ways is not only in
the best interest of the ever-increasing population of migrants and refugees
seeking asylum in Europe, but it is also essential to curtailing mafia windfalls
and ultimately hindering predatory mafia activity moving forward.207
While it is unlikely that any single solution will bring a swift demise to a
centuries-old institution such as the mafia while simultaneously solving the
complex problems that have developed in the wake of the ongoing refugee cr
isis, reforming the Dublin regulations is certainly a step in the right direction.
Reforming Dublin has the capacity to curtail mafia spending enough to
disincentivize the widespread, systematic, and calculated exploitation of the
refugee crisis. Eliminating the requirement that asylum seekers apply for
asylum in the first country in which they entered the EU, coupled with the suspe
nsion or elimination of Dublin transfers , will not only reduce mafia profits, but
will also have the desirable outcome of improving asylum policy in Europe
generally. By ensuring that asylum seekers do not become initially trapped,
delayed in procedural limbo, or sent back to the mafi-acontrolled reception
centers, the proposed changes to Dublin will minimize profit generating while
also alleviating many of the human rights -related problems that have arisen as
a result of mafia activity in Italy. Further, the reforms will ideally result in a
more consistent, synchronized asylum policy across the EU by distributing
applications more evenly and accounting for differences in available resources
among member nations.
These outcomes are not only crucial to promoting political, economic, and
social stability in Italy, Europe, and the international community, but are also in
the best interests of the migrant and refugee populations affectedwhoultimately
hope to find security, safety, and a new start within Europe?s borders.
207 See Mezzofiore, supra note 64; Williams, supra note 147, at 5.
4 See Human Rights Watch, Europe's Refugee Crisis: An Agenda for Action12 (Dec . 2015 ), https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/11/16/europes-refugee-crisis/agenda-action[https://perma.cc/3P6EUE67].
5 See Eric Reguly , Refugee Crisis a Multibillion-Dollar Honeypot for Italian Mafia , GLOBE & MAIL (Jan. 12 , 2016 , 8 :12 PM), htt/p/w:ww.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/refugee-crisis -amultibillion-dollar-honeypot-for-italian- mafia /article27186445/ [https://perma.cc/N843-JAK4].
6 See Alex Perry & Connie Agius ,The New Mediterranean Mafia, MIGRANT REPORT: BACK BRIEF (June 12 , 2015 ), http://migrantreport.org/migrants-and -the-new-mediterranean-mafia/ [https:// perma.cc/CX4P-5LE2].
7 See id .
8 See id . ; Reguly, supra note 5.
29 Angela Giuffrida , Italy: Thank Us for Refugee Help-Don't Sue , LOCAL (Dec. 9 , 2015 , 2 :50 PM), http://www.thelocal.it/20151209/italy-slams -eu-over-refugee-crisis-criticism[https://perma .cc/ Z4QW-HYWS].
30 See Patrick Kinglsey , 2016 Sets New Record for Asylum Seekers Reaching Italy by Bo , at GUARDIAN (Nov. 28 , 2016 , 7 :27 AM), https: //www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/28/2016-setsnew -record-for-asylum-seekers-reaching-italy-by-boat [https://perma .cc/QNT4-T7H7].
31 Giampiero Gramaglia , How Italy Is Still Struggling with the Refugee Crisis, EURS . WORLD (Oct. 16 , 2015 ), http://europesworld.org/ 2015 /10/26/how-italy -is-still-struggling-with-the-refugeecrisis/# .Vpv8Q_EyOIc [https://perma.cc/DJ2N-E3KN].
34 Giuffrida, supra note 29.
36 See id . For example, Italy's Interior Minister Angelino Alfano stated that allowingtheEuropean Commission to open proceedings against Italy would be ?unreasonable,? and instead, the EU should thank Italy for the work it has done throughout the crisis . Id.
37 Nicholas Farrell, Welcome to Italy: This Is What a Real Immigration Crisis Looks Like , SPECTATOR (June 20 , 2015 , 9 :00 AM), http: //www.spectator.co.uk/ 2015 /06/the-invasion-of-italy/[https:// perma.cc/YXJ8-P5CY].
51 Id. On the night of the Italian intervention, both Greco and Badawi fled the scene by boat . Id . Greco and his son Massimo were arrested three days later and sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy and facilitation of illegal immigration, while Badawi was murdered in Egypt in2012 after the Egyptian government refused to extradite him to Ita ly . Id. Police believe he was killed by fellow collaborators for not sharing profits . Id.
52 See Reguly , supra note 5 (?Prosecutors say the Sicilian Mafia, known as the Cosa Nostra, and possibly other Italian Mafia groups must consider the Mediterranean refugee crisis manna fromhea ven. 'Behind the smugglers, there is a multibillion- dollar business-and that of course attracts theM afia,' said Maurizio Scalia, a prosecutor in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, who is investigating smuggling networks and sharing his findings with European investigators .?).
53 Reguly, supra note 5. As a result of the arrests and convictions that followedtheinterceptionof the smuggling voyage, law enforcement officials in Sicily confirmed that Greco and Badawi were involved in a vast network of smugglers that included money men and safe houses in Italy, and that they had carried out five to six trips prior to being caught . Id.
56 Rick Noack , For Rome's Mafia, More Refugees Means More Money, WASH . POST (Dec. 5 , 2014 ), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/12/04/for-romes -mafia-morerefugees- means- more-money/[https://perma.cc/K4RC-YT8Z] ;Reguly, supra note 5.Romeis currently embroiled in a similar scandal of its own, in which mafia members bribedhigh -rankinggovernment
90 Patrick J. Lyons , Explaining the Rules for Migrants: Borders and Asylum , N.Y. TIMES (Sept. 16, 2015 ), http://www.nytimes.com/ 2015 /09/17/world/europe/europe-refugees -migrants-rules .html?_r=0 [https://perma.cc/8QZL-FHDE].
95 Jan-Paul Brekke , Stuck inTransit:SecondaryMigrationofAsylumSeekersinEurope,National Differences, and the Dublin Regulation, 28 J. REFUGEE STUD . 145 , 147 ( 2014 ).
101 See Tarakhel v. Switzerland, App. No. 29217 /12, Eur. Ct. H.R. ( 2014 ) ; M.S.S. v . Belgium, 2011 -I Eur . Ct. H.R. 255; Press Release, European Court of Human Rights, Belgian Authorities Should Not Have Expelled Asylum Seeker to Greece (Jan . 21, 2011 ), h//thtpu:doc.echr.coe.int/ eng?i= 003 - 3407679 -3824378 [https://perma.cc/NZE3-RUS6] [hereinafter Press Release,M.S.S.]; Press Release, European Court of Human Rights, Sending Afghan Family of AsylumSeekers Back to Italy Under the ?Dublin? Regulation Without IndividualGuarantees ConcerningTheir CareWouldBe in Violation of the Convention(Nov .4, 2014 ),http: //hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i= 003 - 4923136 -6025044 [https://perma.cc/NTK9-FSQF] [hereinafter Press Release, Tarakhel].
102 M.S.S. , 2011 -I Eur . Ct. H.R. at 266.
105 Id. at 266-67.
106 Id. at 267. Greece was also a named defendant in M.S.S. Id . at 255.
107 Id. at 266-67; see Press Release, M.S.S., supra note 101.
108 M.S.S. , 2011 -I Eur . Ct. H.R. at 269.
143 See ECtHR: General Suspension of Dublin Transfers to Italy Not Justified, supra note 125 (?The European Commission will carefully assess the ECtHR judgment as well as its pos sible implications for the functioning of the asylum system in Italy and the EU . However, it is primarily for Member States to draw conclusions from this judgment, and in particular to assess what implications it should have for the decisions which they may take in relation to 'Dublin transfers' to Italy, and for the manner in which such transfers are carried out .?).
144 See id.
145 See Brekke , supra note 95 , at 160.
146 See id . Presently, the difference in reception conditions in Italy as compared to other member states is characterized by the heavy mafia involvement in the receipt andmanagement of the migrants . See Perry & Agius, supra note 6.
147 See Perry & Agius, supra note 6; see also Richard Williams, Beyond Dublin: A Discussion Paper for the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament (Mar . 18, 2015 ), https://www.greens-efa.eu/ legacy/fileadmin/dam/Documents/Policy_papers/Migration_asylum/Beyond_Dublin_paper_final.pdf [https://perma.cc/VM9V-GJR6] (explaining the problems that persist under the current Dublin system ).
148 Commission Regulation 118 / 2014 , 2014 O.J. (L 39) 1 (EU).
149 See id.; see also Asylum Statistics, EUROSTAT (Mar. 13 , 2017 ), http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/ statistics-explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics [https://perma.cc/U6MK-X5TA].
150 Alexander Bitoulas , Eurostat, Asylum Applicants and First Instance Decisions on Asylum Applications: 2012 , at1 ( May2013 ), http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/4168041/5948553/KSQA-13-005-EN.PDF/b03443ae-5b58 - 4858 - b196-d9de7be84548 [https://perma.cc/37MR-MNCC].
151 Asylum Quarterly Report , EUROSTAT (Mar. 15 , 2017 ), http: //ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statisticsexplained/index.php/Asylum_quarterly_report [https://perma.cc/3XWT-5Z33].
152 Phillip Connor , Number of Refugees to Europe Surges to Record 1.3 Million in 2015, PEW RES . CTR. (Aug. 2 , 2016 ), http/:/www.pewglobal.org/ 2016 /08/02/number-of -refugees-to-europesurges-to-record-1-3-million -in-2015/ [https://perma.cc/SXF8-TV7G].
153 Phillip Connor & Jens Manuel Krogstad, Fewer Refugees Entering Europe Than in 2015, but Asylum Backlog Still Growing , PEW RES. CTR.: FACT TANK (Sept.6 , 2016 ),http: //www.pewresearch. org/fact-tank/ 2016 /09/06/fewer-refugees -entering-europe-than-in-2015-but- asylum- backlog-stillgrowing/ [https://perma.cc/2KWE-5EA7].
154 See Asylum Quarterly Report, supra note 151 . See generally Williams, supra note 147 (criticizing Dublin's ineffectiveness, risk of violating human rights, financial cost, and tendency to undermine solidarity between EU member states ).
155 See Williams , supra note 147 , at 15.
156 See id.
157 See id . at 15-16.
158 See id.
159 See Brekke , supra note 95 , at 145-48.
167 See id . at 158.
168 See id.
169 See Williams , supra note 147 (?The myopic national debates about immigration in Member States are such that many citizens feel that their country is the top destination for asylum seekers. When Southern EU States, such as Spain, Malta, Greece and, most recently, Italy, ask for help with dealing with their migration crisis their northern neighbours are quick to criticise (e.g. thepoorrece ption conditions), but slow to offer practical help .?).
170 See Brekke , supra note 95 , at 160.
171 See id . at 149.
172 See id . at 160.
173 See ECtHR: General Suspension of Dublin Transfers to Italy Not Justified, supra note 125 . The situation today differs from that at the time of the court's ruling in light of the mafia's relatively recent exploitation of the refugee crisis . See Perry & Agius, supra note 6.
174 See Greek Council for Refugees, supra note 121.
175 See Press Release, M.S.S., supra note 101.
176 See id.
177 See ECtHR: General Suspension of Dublin Transfers to Italy Not Justified, supra note 125.
178 See id . The situation has worsened in light of the increased degree of mafia control of the reception centers . See Reguly, supra note 5.
179 See Press Release, Tarakhel, supra note 101.
180 See id. ; Reguly, supra note 5.
181 See M.S .S. v. Belgium, 2011 -I Eur . Ct. H.R. 255;ECtHR: General Suspension of Dublin Transfers to Italy Not Justified, supra note 125; Reguly, supra note 5.
182 See Williams , supra note 147; Perry & Agius, supra note 6 . The perpetuation of mafia control is made possible through several Dublin mechanisms . See Perry & Agius, supra note 6.
183 See Lyons , supra note 90.
184 See Mezzofiore , supra note 64.
185 See id.; Brekke, supra note 95, at 158.
186 See Williams , supra note 147 , at 24. Examples of proposed alternatives to the current system include a ?free choice? model where applicants are allowed to travel to the member state of their choice, and a slightly more stringent option where the applicant is given the opportunity to make a case for traveling to their member state of choice based on factors such as language, potential employment, family ties, and previous residence . See id.
198 See M.S .S., 2011 -I Eur . Ct. H.R. at 306; Brek ke, supra note 95 , at 145. S ee generally ECtHR: General Suspension of Dublin Transfers to Italy Not Justified , supra note 125 (noting thattheECtHR in Tarakhel found ?the situation in Italy is not comparable to the situation in Greece which led to the MSS judgment?). Italy's reception conditions more closely resemblethoseofGreecethanofotherEU member states, thus meriting a similar suspension . See ECtHR: General Suspension ofDublinTransfers to Italy Not Justified, supra note 125.
199 See Williams , supra note 147 , at 15.
200 See Brekke , supra note 94 , at 149.
201 See Williams , supra note 147 , at 8-9; Mezzofiore, supra note 64.
202 See Williams , supra note 147 , at 8-9; Mezzofiore, supra note 64.
203 See Tarakhel v. Switzerland, App. No. 29217 /12, Eur. Ct. H.R. para . 46 ( 2014 ); Mezzofiore, supra note 64.
204 See Williams , supra note 147 , at 8-9; Harriet Grant , UK Fights to Retain Dublin Law to D eport Asylum Seekers, GUARDIAN (Mar. 2 , 2016 , 6 :47 AM), http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/ 2016 /mar/02/uk-fights -to-retain-dublin-law-to-deport-asylum-seekers [https://perma .cc/HR79-RK86] The U.K. government's use of Dublin is currently being challenged, specifically in a caseinwhichan Eritrean woman was removed to Italy despite having been raped while she was homeless there,andin a case involving an Afghan man who attempted to commit suicide after becoming homeless in Italy . Grant, supra.
205 See Williams , supra note 147 , at 11.
206 See id.; Mezzofiore, supra note 64.