Access to the territory and push backs



During 2016 the harbour most affected by arrivals was that of Augusta, followed by Pozzallo, Catania, Messina and Palermo. The disembarkations that took place at fully-fledged hotspots represented less than the 30% of the total. These were 52,000 on a total number of about 181,000 persons.1

However, the Hotspot approach was applied at least to six additional ports of disembarkation.2

Among those disembarked, the number of people seeking asylum has been about 123,370.

According to the law,3 the border police rejects third-country nationals who present themselves at the border without the conditions required for entry into the territory of the State. The rejection is also ordered towards foreigners:

a.     entering the territory evading border controls, stopped at the entrance or immediately thereafter;

b.    temporarily admitted to the territory for assistance.

The law also provides that such provisions do not apply in the cases provided by the current provisions governing international or humanitarian protection. On the other hand, the law also expressly provides an obligation to provide appropriate information on the asylum procedure,4 to be discharged even at hotspots5 and border crossings.6

The way the provisions related to the information obligation are applied determines the actual legitimacy of rejections but the limits of the Hotspot approach make it clear that people not properly informed and not channelled to the asylum procedure may be refused entry under a determined legal basis.

Particularly between October 2015 and January 2016, in Sicily, as recorded by ASGI lawyers and reported by some NGOs,7 Questure issued hundreds of deferred rejection orders. The orders had not been preceded by individual interviews and no copy was given to the persons concerned.

In Taranto as well, hundreds of people have been notified of such orders. As reported by ASGI,8 as of 7 December 2015 this happened, after disembarkation, to some 150 people coming from the Maghreb area, while a group of Nigerian people were immediately moved to expulsion centres based in Bari and Restinco, where they faced lack of defence against detention and many difficulties to formalise their asylum request.


From Swiss and French borders to expulsion

In August 2016, ASGI interviewed several third-country nationals present in Como where some 400-500 were camping in the park in front of the train station, pushed back from Switzerland and awaiting to try again to cross the border.

Almost all the persons reported to ASGI they had never received adequate information, neither on arrival in Italy nor subsequently, on how to apply for international protection, on the criteria for establishing the State responsible for examining a request provided by Dublin Regulation III and the possibility to request relocation, and had not been able to make use of an interpreter who spoke their language. Those who reported to have been informed about relocation at disembarkation said that they were not assisted later to trigger the procedure. ASGI found that very few of them had applied for international protection in Italy, although most of them were in clear need of protection, coming from Eritrea and Ethiopia. 9

Some of them have been transferred from Chiasso border to the Taranto hotspot (see Detention).

On 3 August 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Italian and Sudanese police authorities.10 The agreement provides that, upon request, the Sudanese police collaborates in identifying and repatriating Sudanese nationals who have not applied for asylum. Implementing the agreement, Italy returned 40 Sudanese to Khartoum on 24 August 2016.11

According to the information recorded by ASGI, these repatriations are likely to be considered collective expulsions as there has been no individual examination of their cases. The Sudanese nationals were arrested in Ventimiglia, where they had moved after being rescued at sea and disembarked a few weeks before. They were detained for some days in a centre, different from a CIE, where a judge swiftly validated their expulsion, and then moved to the Taranto hotspot. They told ASGI that neither upon disembarkation nor later did they receive information on the asylum procedure and on the consequences of not applying for asylum.

Other Sudanese nationals, caught in the same police operation but luckily not embarked on the same flight, as they managed to get assistance and information by NGOs and by specialist lawyers, sought asylum and were granted refugee status.

In the light of such practices, ASGI lawyers lodged an appeal before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in February 2017.12 In February 2017, Italy has also signed similar Memoranda of Understanding also with Tunisia and Libya.13

  • 1. Ministry of Interior, Cruscoto statistico giornaliero, 31 December 2016.
  • 2. European Commission, 8th report on relocation and resettlement, COM(2016) 791, 8 December 2016.
  • 3. Article 10 LD 286/98.
  • 4. Article 3 LD 142/2015.
  • 5. Decree-Law 13/2017.
  • 6. Article 10 LD 286/98.
  • 7. Amnesty International, Hotspot Italy: How EU’s Flagship Approach Leads To Violations Of Refugee And Migrant Rights, November 2016, available at:, 40; Oxfam, Hotspot: Rights denied, 19 May 2016, available at:, 29.
  • 8. ASGI, Il diritto negato: dalle stragi in mare agli hotspot, 26 January 2016 available in Italian at:
  • 9. ASGI, ‘Le riammissioni di cittadini stranieri alla frontiera di chiasso:profili di illegittimità’, 31 August 2016 available in Italian at:; ‘Migranti : diritti violati al confine italo-svizzero’, 31 August 2016, available in Italian at:
  • 10. The agreement is available in Italian at:
  • 11. See also ECRE, ‘Italy’s deportation of 48 Sudanese citizens may amount to collective expulsion’, 16 September 2016, available at:
  • 12. ASGI, ‘Rimpatriati in Sudan presentano ricorso contro l’Italia’, 16 February 2017, available in Italian at:
  • 13. The agreement is available at:

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti