By law, reception conditions have only to satisfy a basic level in first reception centres and in temporary centres (CAS), while SPRAR projects have to develop so-called "integrated accommodation", centred on the individual paths and aimed at providing the person hosted all the tools to regain individual autonomy.
LD 142/2015 clarifies that in the first reception centres and in the temporary ones the respect of private life, gender and age specific concerns, physical and mental health, family unit and the situation of vulnerable persons shall be ensured. Measures to prevent any form of violence and to ensure the safety and security of applicants shall be adopted.1
SPRAR projects, instead, ensure interpretation and linguistic-cultural mediation services, legal counselling, teaching of the Italian language and access to schools for minors, health assistance, socio-psychological support in particular to vulnerable persons, training and re-training, support at providing employment, counselling on the services available at local level to allow integration locally, information on (assisted) voluntary return programmes, as well as information on recreational, sport and cultural activities.2
LD 142/2015 also clarifies that asylum applicants are free to exit from the reception centres during the daytime but they have the duty to re-enter during the night time. The applicant can ask the Prefect a temporary permit to leave the centre in different hours for relevant personal reasons or for those related to the asylum procedure.3 Such limits are not provided by law for the SPRAR structures and are eventually applied by the bodies managing the projects.
In practice, reception conditions vary considerably among different accommodation centres and also between the same type of centres. While the services provided are the same, the quality can differ depending on the management bodies running the centres.
While the SPRAR publishes annual report on its reception system, no comprehensive and updated reports on reception conditions in all the Italian territory are available.
It is not possible to determine an overall average of duration of stay. However, asylum seekers remain in reception centres throughout the whole asylum procedure, which may last several months, as well as during the appeal procedure. LD 142/2015 does not provide any timeframe on the reception, since this has to be provided since the manifestation of the intention to make an asylum request and during the asylum procedure.
After the entry into force of LD 142/2015, all the former CARA have been converted into first reception centres, but nothing has substantially changed compared to the past. The purpose of the these reception centres is to offer hospitality to asylum seekers when justified by needs of identification,4 and of medical tests for the detection of vulnerabilities, to take into account for a later and more focused placement.5
However, the law does not specify any maximum time limit for the stay of asylum seekers in these centres. The whole mechanism of reception designed phases is therefore bypassed through the extensive use of ambiguous wording in the law: applicants stay in such centres for the time “necessary" to carry out the necessary operations, but, once concluded, they may still remain there for the time “strictly necessary” before the transfer into SPRAR structures.6
The designated facilities to accommodate asylum seekers in this stage are collective reception centres, facilities until now connoted by large structures, isolation from urban centres and poor or otherwise difficult contacts with the external world.
Generally speaking, all governmental centres, as the former CARA, are very often overcrowded. Accordingly, the quality of the accomodation services offered is not equivalent to the SPRAR centres or other reception facilities of smaller size. In general, concerns have systematically been raised about the high variability in the standards of reception centres in practice, which may manifest itself in, for example: overcrowding and limitations in the space available for assistance, legal advice and socialisation; physical inadequacy of the facilities and their remoteness from the community; or difficulties in accessing appropriate information.7
Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that the material conditions also vary from one centre to another depending on the size, the effective number of asylum seekers hosted compared to the actual capacity of the centre, and the level and quality of the services provided by the body managing each centre.
More detailed information on specific centres are provided in the reports published by the NGOs belonging to the campaign LasciateCIEntrare. In June 2016, the NGOs visited the centre based in Castelnuovo di Porto (Rome), former CARA,
First reception centre of Castelnuovo di Porto, Rome8
The centre based in Castelnuovo di Porto, 30 km from Rome, is established in the compound of a former multifunctional cemtre of the Civil Protection Department. It is a huge fenced complex in cement, surrounded by an open area with no services.
According to the Roadmap and as confirmed by Vice-Prefect Leone during the visit performed, it is destined to become one of the 4 Italian Hubs for the accommodation of people waiting to be relocated. The staff of the centre was represented by a total of 117 workers.
The maximum capacity should be 650 places but at the moment of the visit the persons accommodated were 844, including international protection beneficiaries, asylum seekers and people waiting for relocation. Asylum seekers are separated by gender. The NGOs records that the rooms are generally unadorned, without tents, and with mildew. People do not receive information about their relocation procedure and can be notified about the trasnfers only a few hours before the travel.
Pocket money of €2.50 per day per person is bestowed on goods that can be purchased inside the small store inside the centre. Among the goods purchased there are biscuits, toothpaste, cigarettes, phone cards, as well as train and subway tickets.
The average time of stay in the centre is 3-4 months according to the managing body, but the NGOs detected the presence of people staying there for one year and eight months.
In July 2016, LasciateCIEntrare tried to access the former military barracks of Cavarzerani, based in Udine, but the visit was allowed only to the MEP Elly Schlein. A follow up visit was held in January 2017.
First reception centre of Cavarzerani, Udine9
The centre is divided into two buildings and a tent area. In the first building there were six big rooms, with 20/25 beds. In the bathrooms, they found that five showers were broken, the sinks had leaks of water and hot water was continuosly interrrupted. In the second building there were 9 rooms with about 165 beds.
The tent area had more critical conditions. There were 38 tents, with 9-12 persons each. Inside the tents there was no light and no heating, despite critical temperatures in the winter. Bathrooms and showers were too few: about 10 bathrooms and 14 showers for at least 400 persons, with inadequate hygienic conditions.
The MEP Elly Schlein, who visited the centre on 29 July 2016 reported that the persons accommodated at the moment of the visit were 789, almost exclusively Pakistani asylum seekers. In January 2017, there were 644 people accommodated, out of whom 400 in the buildings and the rest in the tent area. Most persons were Pakistani nationals.
People could make the first access to the centre only from 19:30 to 20:30 every day and could leave the centre during the day but they could return only when the gates were open. In all the centre, there was no access to a legal support service. No form of pocket money was planned for people who were in the centre. The management body explained that the Ministry was in debt of at least €3 million and that the last payment had been made in September 2015.
The average duration of stay was reported at 6-8 months, although this fluctuates given that the majority of asylum seekers hosted there are Dublin cases.
In the centre of Cona, Veneto, on 2 January 2017, overcrowding and the lack of adequate staff in number have prevented the authorities’ ability to assist an Ivorian woman, who later died.10
The accomodation conditions in the facilities of the SPRAR system differ considerably from those in first reception centres. In bigger facilities of the SPRAR, rooms may accommodate up to 4 persons, while in flats, rooms can accommodate 2 or 3 persons. In all reception centres, a common space for recreational activities should be guaranteed. SPRAR structures have to provide hygienic services which are adequate and proportionate to the number of asylum seekers hosted, that is 1 bathroom per 6 individuals. With regard to the cleaning service of the facility, asylum seekers are more or less involved depending on the type of SPRAR centre.
In some SPRAR structures, it is possible to cook autonomously, using either pocket money given by the managing entity to buy food – the amount of which varies mainly depending on the typology of beneficiaries, as more is provided to vulnerable individuals – or the products/ingredients provided. In this case the kitchen is shared by the guests. In other structures, meals are provided by an external catering or internal canteen.11
The abovementioned criteria are considered the minimum standards foreseen in the SPRAR system. In the case of reception projects hosting categories with particular need or for example unaccompanied children, these services are normally widened (e.g. sport, cultural visits etc).
Each structure is run by different entities, as a consequence the quality of services differ from one to another, even though the minimum standards should be guaranteed in all centres.
Training and adjournment courses are organised by the authority in charge of the management of the entire system (Servizio centrale del sistema di protezione) on an annual basis, which are addressed to the personnel who operates in all SPRAR facilities located on the national territory.12 SPRAR staff is obliged to attend these training courses. Training provides both basic expertise and refreshment courses. Their content consists in both legislation and integration paths.
According to LD 142/2015, services guaranteed in temporary centres (CAS) are the same guaranteed in first reception centres.13 As already highlighted, the insufficient expansion of the SPRAR has been at the origin of the creation of a permanent state of emergency and of the proliferation of temporary structures where asylum seekers can spend all of the asylum procedure. With this, they also risk being immediately thrown out of the reception system when receiving a positive decision (see Content of Protection: Housing).
The chronic emergency has forced the improvisation of interventions and favoured the entry into the accommodation network of bodies lacking the necessary skills and, in the worst cases, only interested in profits.
Reports published throughout 2016 by organisations such as Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU),14 NAGA,15 Lunaria,16 and LasciateCIEntrare together with Libera and Cittalia,17 clearly show the serious problems and deficiencies of many of such structures: unsuitable structures reception; lack of hygiene and lack of safety conditions minimally adequate for both guests and workers; lack of preparation of the staff and staff shortages. A few recent observations from late 2016 and early 2017 are recounted below by way of example:
Cona, Veneto: Several organisations, including ASGI, requested Rule 39 interim measures from the ECtHR on 11 January 2017 due to the inhuman and degrading conditions in the centre facing three children and an adult. While the Court has requested information from the Italian authorities, the Prefecture has transferred the children concerned out of the centre, so as to prevent the Court from granting interim measures.18
Piano Torre di Isnello, Palermo: The centre is located far away from the town of Isnello. During a visit by LasciateCIEntrare on 29 December 2016, the centre hosted 90 persons. Heating is available, although residents reported that it is underused by the management of the centre, and the clothes provided are insufficient for all guests and inadequate for cold weather. Rooms, on average the size of a double room, were reported to be overcrowded, as each room is occupied on average by 6 people, with the exception of a room hosting 10 people.19
Telese, Campania: On 19 November 2016, LasciateCIEntrare activists met some asylum seekers accommodated in the centre for more than six months. They had no knowledge of the Italian language and they had no basic legal information about the asylum procedure they were involved in. They lacked adequate winter clothing and they complained about weak relations with the social operators of the CAS. They also reported they had no interaction with the local community. After some weeks, the situation recorded was even worse because of the intermittent availability of hot water and electricity.20
Montalto Uffugo, Calabria: The centre, located far away from the town, consists of two areas, a two storey house and a smaller house: The first one has 4 large bedrooms, each with 5 beds, but a single toilet and two showers on the floor and two more bathrooms at the lower level. The second one has two bedrooms for seven guests and one bathroom. LasciateCIEntrare visited the centre on 29 August 2016 and found satisfactory formal compliance with standards but difficult relations with the manager of the structure and lack of real paths of inclusion for the residents.21
However, as the functioning of CAS depends on agreements by the management bodies with the Prefectures and on the professionalism of the bodies involved, there are notable cases in which the reception conditions are equal to those of SPRAR, such as the CAS of Trieste.22
- 1. Article 10(1) LD 142/2015.
- 2. Article 30 MoI Decree 10 August 2016.
- 3. Article 10(2) LD 142/2015.
- 4. Article 9(1) LD 142/2015.
- 5. Article 9(4) LD 142/2015.
- 6. Article 9(5) LD 142/2015.
- 7. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Report by Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, following his visit to Italy from 3 to 6 July 2012, CommDH(2012)26, 18 September 2012, 36.
- 8. Source: Lunaria, Il mondo di dentro, il sistema di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo e rifugiati a Roma, October 2016, 13; LasciateCIEntrare, Report20giugnio, October 2016.
- 9. Sources: LasciateCIEntrare, Report20giugnio, October 2016; Report dell’ ingresso alla ex caserma Cavarzerani, 26 January 2017: http://bit.ly/2jXFSwi.
- 10. Corriere de la Sera, ‘Muore una ragazza, rivolta nel centro di accoglienza di Cona: i migranti assediano per ore 25 operatori’, 3 January 2017, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2hIFbWU.
- 11. ANCI et al., Rapporto sulla protezione internazionale in Italia 2014, October 2014, 17.
- 12. SPRAR, Manual for operators, 9 and 22.
- 13. Article 11(2) and Article 10(1) LD 142/2015.
- 14. MEDU, Asilo Precario, April 2016, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2ljmxa6.
- 15. NAGA, (Ben)venuti! Indagine sul sistema di accoglienza dei richiedenti asilo a Milano e provincia, April 2016, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2kDbCZT.
- 16. Lunaria, Il mondo di dentro. Il sistema di accoglienza di richiedenti asilo e rifugiati a Roma, October 2016, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2fy1cac.
- 17. LasciateCIEntrare et al., InCAStrati, February 2016, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2ljAFQI.
- 18. ASGI, ‘Cona(VE): minorenni nel centro di accoglienza. La CEDU chiede chiarimenti all’Italia’, 15 January 2017, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2jY3uWI.
- 19. LasciateCIEntrare, Migranti, visita al CAS di Piano Torre di Isnello (PA): il report, 10 January 2017, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2lfgQhq.
- 20. LasciateCIEntrare, Migranti, LasciateCIEntrare visita al Centro di Accoglienza Straordinaria di Telese (BN), 10 January 2017, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2jY2xsp.
- 21. LasciateCIEntrare, Migranti, LasciateCIEntrare visita il Centro di Accoglienza Straordinaria di Montalto Uffugo (CS), 29 December 2016, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2khkIua.
- 22. ASGI, Il diritto d’asilo tra accoglienza ed esclusione (Dell’Asino, 2015).