The report written by the Italian Council for Refugees (CIR) illustrates how obstacles still prevent asylum seekers from accessing adequate reception. For example, asylum seekers claiming asylum at police headquarters can be accommodated in reception centres only after the formal registration of their asylum claim, which may happen long after the person has been fingerprinted, thus leaving people sleeping rough on the streets. In contrast, asylum seekers rescued at sea are immediately transferred to emergency temporary reception centres (CAS), regardless of the formal registration of their applications.
Furthermore, the quality of assistance varies between the different reception centres. Over 35,000 people were accommodated in temporary accommodation centres (CAS) in 2014 and 2015. The reception conditions and services provided in these centres are not being monitored at the national level. Accommodation Centres for Asylum Seekers (CARA) and short-term accommodation centres (CDA), host around over 9,000 asylum seekers who receive basic services in large, overcrowded buildings. UNHCR has warned that asylum seekers at CARA reception centres still face poor living conditions, due to the low quality of services, the prevalence of abuses and inefficiencies as well as the complete lack of integration perspectives. Overall, centres are overcrowded and sometimes placed in remote locations. Centres of the SPRAR network, providing over 20,000 places, ensure more and better services, such as mediation and legal counselling.
A National Coordinating Working Group has been established within the Italian Ministry of Interior, which involves members of civil society organisations and UNHCR in efforts to improve reception and integration in the country. The Working Group is responsible for the development of a plan to create additional emergency reception places, under an equitable distribution scheme, across the Italian regions as well as developing an integration plan.
The new decree reinforces protection for asylum-seeking children, whose level of maturity and personal development must be taken into account during personal interviews. Furthermore, the principle of the ‘best interest of the child’ is clearly prioritised, in particular in the identification of a mechanism for age assessment of unaccompanied children to be adopted in the future.
Furthermore, from now on, persons awaiting return will be detained for a maximum of 90 days, instead of the previous 18 month limit.
Finally, the report includes concerns by UNHCR and CIR about the decision to end Italy’s search and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, which rescued over 170,000 people in 2014.
With a delay of seven years, an implementing decree on asylum procedures has entered into force in Italy on 20 March 2015. This Decree lays down the rules implementing the Procedure Decree 25/2008 which transposed in 2008 the EU Procedures Directive. The EU had in the meanwhile, already approved new measures in June 2013, to be transposed by July 2015.
The new law clearly states that asylum seekers do not need to approach the authorities of their countries of origin to request official documentation in order to benefit from state free legal aid.
The new measures also foresee the adoption of guidelines on minimum standards for the management of reception centres, which has been welcomed by UNHCR.
Under the new rules adopted in March, beneficiaries of humanitarian protection have the right to stay in Italy for two years, instead of one, as established by the previous law. In 2014, 36,330 applications were examined, out of which 21,861 people were granted a form of protection (60%); from which 10,091 were granted humanitarian protection.