During the past year the temporary holding centre for irregular migrants in Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost island, has been repeatedly denounced for instances of procedural irregularities and alleged human rights violations. This study presents an overview of events and policies implemented by the Italian and Libyan Governments, the European Union and the International Organization for Migration and outlines the contentions surrounding these policies. It argues that the implementation of the detention and return schemes, commonly discussed in terms of the externalization of asylum, does not actually relocate the asylum procedures outside the EU's external borders but rather deprives asylum seekers of the possibility of accessing asylum determination procedure. It further suggests that policies geared towards deterring irregular migratory flows into Europe and combatting smuggling in migrants in Libya, might paradoxically result in 'illegalizing' the movement of migrants in northern Africa and increasing the involvement of smuggling networks. The study ends by raising the issue of the political responsibility of all actors involved and suggests the most affective ways to balance the rights and responsibilities on asylum at the EU's southern border.