Special reception needs of vulnerable groups



Article 17 LD 142/2015 provides that accommodation is provided taking into account the special needs of the asylum seekers, in particular those of vulnerable persons such as children, unaccompanied minors, disabled persons, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with children under 18, persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, victims of trafficking and genital mutilation as well as persons affected by serious illness or mental disorders (see section on Identification).

There are no legal provisions on how, when and by whom this assessment should be carried out. LD 142/2015 provides that asylum applicants undergo a health check since they enter the first reception centres and in temporary reception structures to assess their health condition and special reception needs.1 The Decree has introduced a more protective norm providing that special services addressed to vulnerable people with special needs shall be ensured in first reception centres and SPRAR structures.2

PD 21/2015 clarifies the need to set up specific spaces within CARA (now “governmental first reception centres”) where services related to the information, legal counseling, psychological support, and receiving visitors are ensured.3 Where possible, adult vulnerable people are placed together with other adult family members already present in the reception centres.4 The manager of reception centres shall inform the Prefecture on the presence of vulnerable applicants for the possible activation of procedural safeguards allowing the presence of supporting personnel during the personal interview.5

With regard to reception in SPRAR centres, the Minister of Interior shall issue Guidelines for the implementation of services, including those addressed to persons with special needs.6 Also in SPRAR centres, special reception measures should be set up to meet the specific needs of asylum seekers.7 The assessment of special needs is conducted upon placement of asylum seekers at one of the accommodation centres. This assessment is not carried out systematically and it depends upon the existence and the quality of services provided by the centre, the availability of funds and their use by the managers of the centres.


Survivors of torture

In practice, it may happen that torture victims remain in a governmental or temporary centre without any possibility to be transferred to a SPRAR centre due to lack of availability of places.


Families and children

LD 142/2015 specifies that asylum seekers are accommodated in structures which ensure the protection of family unity comprising of spouses and first-degree relatives.8

Both in SPRAR centres and in first line reception centres, the management body of the accommodation centres should respect the family unity principle.9 Therefore they cannot separate children from parents who live in the same wing of the accommodation structure. In practice, it may happen that a father is accommodated in a wing for single men and his wife and children in the wing for women. In general, dedicated wings are designed for single parents with children. It may also happen that the parents are divided and placed in different centres, and usually the children are accommodated with the mother.

It may happen in governmental centres that families are divided in case the accommodation conditions are deemed not adequate and suitable for children. In these situations mothers and children are hosted in a facility, and men in another. The centre of Gorizia is an example where families are usually divided. By contrast, in some other centres, former CARA, families are accommodated together, like for instance in Castelnuovo di Porto near Rome, Mineo close to Catania and Crotone, Calabria region.

In some circumstances, it may occur that families accommodated in governmental or temporary centres are subsequently transferred to a SPRAR facility, since it constitutes a more adequate reception centre for the specific situation of the family concerned. This transfer depends on some factors such as the composition of the family, its vulnerability and/or health problems and the number of asylum seekers waiting for a place in the SPRAR system.

Managers tend to avoid accommodating together people of the same nationality but belonging to different ethnicities, religion, or political groups that may be in conflict in order to prevent of the rise of tensions and violence.

Based on NGOs’ experience, no specific or standardised mechanisms are put in place to prevent gender-based violence in reception centres. As a general rule, permanent law enforcement personnel is present outside governmental centres with the task of preventing problems and maintaining public order. Generally speaking, the management body of governmental centres divides each family from the others hosted in the centre. Women and men are always separated.


Unaccompanied children

The LD 142/2015 clarifies that while applying the reception measures set out in this decree, the best interests of the child have a character of priority, in order to ensure life conditions suitable for a minor, with regard to protection, well-being and development, including social development, in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.10

In order to evaluate the best interests of the child, the minor shall be heard, taking into account his or her age, the extent of his or her maturity and personal development, also for the purpose of understanding his or her past experiences and to assess the risk of being a victim of trafficking, and the possibility of family reunion pursuant to Article 8(2) of the Dublin III Regulation as long as it corresponds to the best interests.11

By law the reception of unaccompanied children is ensured by the local public entities (municipalities) on the basis of a decision taken by the Juvenile Court. The individuals working with the minors shall be properly skilled or shall in any case receive a specific training and have the duty to respect the privacy rights in relation to the personal information and data of the minors.12

Article 19(1) LD 142/2015 provides that, for immediate relief and protection purposes, unaccompanied minors are accommodated in governmental first reception facilities for the strictly necessary time, in any case not exceeding 60 days, to identify and assess the age of the minor and to receive any information on the rights recognised to the minor and on the modalities of exercise of such rights, including the right to apply for international protection. Throughout the time in which the minor is accommodated in the first relief facility, one or more meetings with a developing age psychologist are provided, when necessary, in presence of a cultural mediator, in order to understand the personal condition of the minor, the reasons and circumstances of the departure from his or her home country and his or her travel, and also his or her future expectations.13

The Ministry of Interior Decree issued on 1 September 2016 has identified the structural requirements and the services ensured in such centres.14 The Decree states that these centres are located in easily accessible places in order to ensure access to services and social life of the territory and that each structure can accommodate up to a maximum of 30 minors.15

The continuation of the reception of the minor is ensured when unaccompanied minors apply for international protection. These minors have access to the SPRAR centres.16 In case of temporary unavailability of the SPRAR centres, the assistance and reception of the minor is temporarily granted by the public authority of the Municipality where the minor is accommodated.17

With regard to the reception of unaccompanied children not seeking asylum, L 190/2014 establishes that the National Asylum Fund, previously funding only projects for children seeking asylum, is now available also for reception projects for unaccompanied children not seeking asylum. On 27 April 2015, the Ministry of Interior issued a Decree on the modalities of funding for such projects. In addition, according to the Stability Law 2015, the difference between unaccompanied minors seeking or not seeking asylum is eliminated only with regard to reception, therefore the number of minors accommodated in SPRAR centres will increase.

Unaccompanied minors cannot be held or detained in governmental reception centres for adults and CIE.18 However, during 2016, both due to the problems related to age assessment (see Identification) and to the unavailability of places in dedicated shelters, there have been reported cases of minors accommodated in adults’ reception centres.

In January 2017, at least 30 minors have been reported to be in the CAS of Cona, Venice, which is not authorised to host unaccompanied minors. This was the subject of appeals by ASGI and other NGOs to the ECtHR on overcrowding and the degrading conditions in which people are accommodated (see Conditions in CAS).

More generally, ASGI has reported cases of children accommodated in inadequate structures in 2016. This happened in in Como, where from 14 July to 23 August 2016, 454 unaccompanied minors readmitted in Italy from Switzerland were entrusted by the Italian police to the Head of Caritas in Como and then placed in a structure at the Parish of Rebbio, not authorised for the reception of minors. Costs incurred for the reception of these children they were not covered by any institution.19

Decree-Law 113/2016, implemented by L 160/2016, has amended Article 19 LD 142/2015 by introducing the paragraph 3-bis, according to which in case of huge arrivals of unaccompanied minors and unavailability of the dedicated reception centres, the use of temporary shelters (CAS) to accommodate minors is permitted.20

Similar to the temporary shelters for adults, these CAS are implemented by Prefectures. The law states that each structure may have a maximum capacity of 50 places and may ensure the same services as governmental first reception facilities dedicated to minors.21 Also in this case, no time limit is actually provided for the staying in these centres; according to the law, accommodation is limited to the time “strictly necessary” until the transfer to adequate structures.22 In any case, these temporary centres cannot host children under 14.

Many NGOs such as Save the Chldren and ASGI have raised strong concerns about this provision. In a letter sent to the Senate on 29 July 2016,23 ASGI highlighted that the law represents a strong disincentive for municipalities to participate in SPRAR projects and that it strongly discriminate minors accommodated in such centres compared to those accommodated in SPRAR and other facilities. According to ASGI, the use of temporary shelters for minors should be forbidden and there should be a fair distribution among the Italian regions and municipalities under the ordinary reception system.

Presently, in the absence of a distribution mechanism between the regions as provided for adults, the reception of unaccompanied minors not transferred in the governmental centres or in SPRAR facilities remains under the responsibility of the city of arrival. This results in unaccompanied minors highly concentrated in some border regions. By the end of November 2016, for example, Sicily was hosting the 40% of unaccompanied children and Calabria 8%.24

Throughout 2016, a total 25,772 unaccompanied minors arrived in Italy,25 and 2,039 were accommodated in SPRAR structures as of the end of January 2017.26

  • 1. Articles 9(4) and 11(1) LD 142/2015.
  • 2. Article 17(3)(4) LD 142/2015.
  • 3. Article 9(3) PD 21/2015.
  • 4. Article 17(5) LD 142/2015.
  • 5. Article 17(7) LD 142/2015.
  • 6. Article 14(2) LD 142/2015.
  • 7. Article 17 LD 142/2015.
  • 8. Article 10(1) LD 142/2015.
  • 9. SPRAR, Manual for operators, 7 and 13.
  • 10. Article 18 (1) LD 142/2015.
  • 11. Article 18(2) LD 142/2015.
  • 12. Article 18(5) LD 142/2015.
  • 13. Article 19(1) LD 142/2015.
  • 14. Ministry of Interior Decree of 1 September 2016 on “Establishment of first reception centres dedicated to unaccompanied minors”.
  • 15. Article 3 Ministry of Interior Decree of 1 September 2016.
  • 16. Article 19(2) LD 142/2015.
  • 17. Article 19(3) LD 142/2015.
  • 18. Article 19(4) LD 142/2015.
  • 19. ASGI, Le riammissioni di cittadini stranieri alla frontiera di chiasso: profili di illegittimita, August 2016, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2bBpAKe, 8-9.
  • 20. Article 19(3-bis) LD 142/2015, amended by L 160/2016. The Article refers to Article 11 LD 142/2015 on CAS.
  • 21. Article 19(1) LD 142/2015.
  • 22. Article 19(3-bis) LD 142/2015, citing Article 19(2)-(3).
  • 23. ASGI, Letter to the Senate: ‘Misure straordinarie di accoglienza per i minori stranieri non accompagnati previste dal disegno di legge di conversione in legge del decreto legge 24 giugno 2016, n. 113’, 28 July 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2bjh9D0.
  • 24. Ministry of Labour, Report mensile minori stranieri non accompagnati in Italia, 30 November 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2khCGge.
  • 25. Ministry of Interior, Cruscotto statistico giornaliero, 31 December 2016.
  • 26. Chamber of Deputies, Dossier a cura degli Ispettori della Guardia di Finanza, 23 January 2017.

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