Access to detention facilities

Italy

Author

The LD 142/2015 has introduced a norm on the detention conditions confirming the access to the CIE and to the freedom to meet detainees by the UNHCR or organisations working on behalf of UNHCR, by family members, lawyers assisting the applicants, organisations with consolidated experience in the field of asylum, representatives of religious entities.1 In this respect, Article 6 the Regulation of CIE issued on 20 October 2014 by the Minister of Interior, provides that access to the CIE without asking the authorisation is allowed any time to governmental representatives, members of the Italian and European Parliament, judges, Office of the National Ombudsman for the rights of detained persons, UNHCR or Organisations working on behalf of UNHCR. However, an authorisation from the competent Prefecture is necessary for family members, Organisations with consolidated experience in the field of asylum, representatives of religious entities, journalists and any other person who make the request to enter CIE. However, for public order and security reasons or for reasons related to the administrative management of CIE the access can be limited but not fully impeded.2

Access to CIEs for journalists and politicians is quite difficult. They have to pass through two different stages before gaining authorisation to visit the CIEs. Firstly, they need to make a request to the local prefecture (the local government representative), which then forwards the request to the Ministry of Interior who investigates the applicant, before finally sending the authorisation back to the Prefecture.

As pointed out by Borderline-Europe “it is a very long and arbitrary procedure which leaves a lot of rooms for the authorities to limit access to the camps”.3

It is often hard to obtain a reply from the Prefecture. Moreover, authorities have a high discretion in allowing or not the entrance of external actors in CIEs since legislation does not foresee precise and clear criteria for the access.”4

On this point the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants underlines the need to “establish a nationwide institutional framework in which NGOs, intergovernmental organizations, journalists and lawyers can freely access and monitor the facilities”.5

In order to inform and raise awareness on the effective situation and conditions of migrants inside Italian administrative detention centres, the LasciateCIEntrare campaign organizes visits inside CIEs with journalists, lawyers, members of Parliament and NGOs.6

Moreover, in compliance with the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), Italy established the Office of the National Ombudsman for the rights of detained persons and persons deprived of their liberty (Garante Nazionale per i detenuti) under Law no. 10/2014.7 The Ombudsman can, inter alia, have unrestricted access to any facility inside the CIEs.8 Moreover, he or she is in charge of verifying the respect of the national law with regard to the rights provided by Article  20 (detention in CIEs), Article 21 (forms of detention), Article 22 (functioning of the centres) and Article 23 (activities of first assistance and rescue) of ruling adopted through Presidential Decree no. 394/1999.

The Extraordinary Commission for Human Rights of the Italian Senate underlines in its January 2017 report that it has often welcomed in its delegations visiting CIE the mayors or the municipal and provincial counsellors of the cities that host CIE. They are unable to enter themselves in those facilities unless authorised by the Prefectures but, as highlighted in the report, easier access could establish closer links to the concerned local populations.9

The Commission also highlighted the fact that in those CIEs that are more open towards the external world, namely where associations can provide information and support on a regular basis, the environment is less tense and migrants detained have a less aggressive attitude towards the personnel of the managing body of the centre and Police.10

The issue of maintaining regular contacts and communicating with people outside the centre is particularly crucial. The procedure for the authorisation of visits varies from centre to centre and, as reported by several sources,11 it is very difficult to obtain the possibility to meet relatives and friends. Usually detainees have to make a formal request, but “the answer can come too late and sometimes only relatives are allowed to visit people inside the CIE. This can cause big problems for common law-couples and in general to the social life of the detainees (particularly when they are detained in a centre far from their city)”.12

Since, it is hard and it takes long the access to CIE to people outside the detention centres, thus “a mobile phone is the only possibility to maintain contacts with families and friends”.

  • 1. Article 7(2) LD 142/2015.
  • 2. Article 7(3) LD 142/2015.
  • 3. Borderline-Europe, opus cite, February 2014, 22.
  • 4. Ibid, 22.
  • 5. UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, Mission to Italy (29 September–8 October 2012), Report 20 April 2013, 15-16.
  • 6. LasciateCIEntrare, Mai più CIE, 2013, 9.
  • 7. Article 7 Law Decree no. 146/2013.
  • 8. Article 7(5)(e) Law Decree no. 146/2013.
  • 9. Senate Human Rights Commission, CIE Report, January 2017, 36
  • 10. Senate Human Rights Commission, CIE Report, September 2014, 29.
  • 11. Borderline-Europe, opus cite, February 2014, 26; interview with Raffaella Cosentino, journalist expert in migration and detention issues and director of the documentary set in Italian CIEs “EU 013: The last Frontier”, carried out by CIR on 10 March 2014; European Alternatives and LasciateCIEntrare Campaign, La detenzione amministrativa dei migranti e la violazione dei diritti umani, December 2012, 23.
  • 12. Borderline-Europe, opus cite, February 2014, 26.

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