On 19 March 2021, I led on a communication sent to the Government of Italy regarding the search and seizure at the home of migrant rights defenders Lorena Fornasir and Gian Andrea Franchi. I was joined by experts Obiora C. Okafor, Felipe González Morales and Siobhán Mullally.
According to the information received, in the early hours of the morning on 23 March 2021, the home of Ms. Lorena Fornasir and Mr. Gian Andrea Franchi was raided by members of the Italian police. Their home also serves as the headquarters of La Linea d’Ombra, a volunteer-led organisation which they founded in 2019, which raises funds to provide for the basic needs of migrants in Italy and Bosnia.
Ms. Fornasir (64) and Mr. Franchi (84) are migrant rights defenders who have been active in refugee and migrant support in Trieste since 2015, welcoming new arrivals to the city and providing them with medicine, clothes, water, and food.
The search warrant authorised the seizure of a wide range of items, including electronic devices and data, leading to the seizure of Mr. Franchi’s personal phone and computer along with three mobile phones belonging to La Linea d’Ombra. Ms. Fornasir’s phone was also initially taken during the raid, before being returned to her after approximately two hours.
It was believed that the raid was carried out within the ambit of an investigation opened against Mr. Franchi for aiding and abetting illegal immigration under article 12 of the 1998 Immigration Act, with the allegations against the human rights defender connected to his provision of aid, including accommodation for one night, to a family of migrants in Trieste in late July 2019.
In the letter we raised serious concern at the criminal investigation opened against Mr. Franchi and the raid carried out at the home of he and woman human rights defender Ms. Fornasir, which we feared may represent the criminalisation and stigmatisation of their legitimate work aimed at ensuring the fulfilment of the rights of migrants.
We also stressed the crucial role played by voluntary grassroots organisations and human rights defenders undertaking humanitarian action aimed at preventing and alleviating suffering of migrants, including through the provision of shelter, food, medical care, and transportation.
The Italian authorities replied to the communication on 17 May 2021.