Hotspots

Italy

Country Report: Hotspots Last updated: 18/05/22

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Being part of the European Commission’s Agenda on Migration, the “hotspot” approach is generally described as providing “operational solutions for emergency situations”, through a single place to swiftly process asylum applications, enforce return decisions and prosecute smuggling organisations through a platform of cooperation among the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Frontex, Europol and Eurojust. Even though there is no precise definition of the “hotspot” approach, it is clear that it has become a fundamental feature of the relocation procedures conducted from Italy and Greece until September 2017, in the framework of Council Decisions 2015/1523 and 2015/1601 of 14 and 22 September 2015 respectively. “Hotspots” managed by the competent authority have not required the construction and equipment of new reception facilities, operating instead from already existing ones.

By the end of 2021, four hotspots were operating in: Apulia (Taranto) and Sicily (Lampedusa, Pozzallo, and Messina). In 2020 and 2021, hotspots were temporarily partially or completely converted to quarantine facilities, with varying capacity and conditions. As of November 2021, Messina’s hotspot appears not operational.

As of 31 of January 2022, the hotspots hosted 361 people in Sicily and 62 in Apulia.[1] At the same time, quarantine boats continued to be used as de facto hotspots during the year.[2]

The hotspot approach is used beyond hotspots centres. In October 2020, ASGI reported that the first line reception facility of Monastir, in Sardinia, was being used as a de facto detention facility; a further visit in April 2021 confirmed persisting criticalities.[3] In 2021, ASGI reported many criticalities at the “new border” of Pantelleria, where landed migrants are also channelled in hotspot-like procedures (see Place of Detention).[4]

In 2020, 28,884 persons entered the hotspots, compared to 7,757 in 2019 and 13,777 in 2018. People were mainly originating from Tunisia (11,183), Bangladesh (4,468) and Ivory Coast (1,633149)[5]

Upon the total, 4,528 were children, of which 3,537 unaccompanied minors.

The monitoring of hotspots by NGOs was hard in 2020 and 2021 due to the limitations in the access to the structures, connected with the pandemic, that prevent access of external people to the facilities [6]

As highlighted in a recent report by ASGI and other organisations, due to contractual terms such as the express obligation of confidentiality, the organizations active in the hotspots do not render public any information on critical issues that may arise in the implementation of the hotspot approach.[7]

The Consolidated Act on Immigration (TUI), as amended by L 46/2017, provides that foreigners apprehended for irregular crossing of the internal or external border or arrived in Italy after rescue at sea are directed to appropriate “crisis points” and at first reception centres. There, they will be identified, registered and informed about the asylum procedure, the relocation programme and voluntary return.[8] Decree Law 113/2018 has subsequently introduced the possibility of detention of persons whose nationality cannot be determined, for up to 30 days in suitable facilities set up in hotspots for identification reasons (see Grounds for Detention).[9]

The Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) adopted in February 2016 and applying at hotpots also state that “where necessary, the use of force proportionate to overcoming objection, with full respect for the physical integrity and dignity of the person, is appropriate…”.[10] The law also provides that the repeated refusal to undergo fingerprinting constitutes a risk of absconding and legitimises detention in CPR (see Grounds for Detention).[11]

The same law also introduced a Border Procedure automatically applicable in case a person makes the application for international protection directly at the border or in transit areas – both to be identified and indicated by decree of the Ministry of Interior – after being apprehended for evading or attempting to evade controls. In this case, the entire procedure can be carried out directly at the border or in the transit area.[12]

Revealing the purpose of facilitating the application of an accelerated procedure to the people present in the hotspots, the Moi Decree issued on 5 August 2019 and published on 7 September 2019, identified among the transit and border areas, those ones close to hotspots: Taranto, Messina and Agrigento (Lampedusa hotspot).[13]

Persons arriving at hotspots are classified as asylum seekers or economic migrants depending on a summary assessment, mainly carried out either by using questionnaires (foglio notizie) filled in by migrants at disembarkation,[14] or by orally asking questions relating to the reason why they have come to Italy. People are often classified just solely on the basis of their nationality. Migrants coming from countries informally considered as safe e.g. Tunisia are classified as economic migrants, prevented from accessing the asylum procedure (see Registration) and handed removal decisions.[15]

According to the SOPs, all hotspots should guarantee inter alia “provision of information in a comprehensible language on current legislation on immigration and asylum”, as well as provision of accurate information on the functioning of the asylum procedure. In practice, however, concerns with regard to access to information persisted in 2020 and in 2021.

As of April 2019, as part of the monitoring project in Lampedusa, ASGI found that a different type of “foglio notizie” was released to some foreign citizens.[16] It was detailed to exclude all the reasons that would prevent the expulsion, completed before printing, and delivered to the persons not in the identification phase but immediately after their transfer from the hotspot, at their arrival in Porto Empedocle. In addition, migrants were asked to sign a paper called “scheda informativa”,[17] through which they declared they were not interested in seeking international protection. The declaration was only written in Italian language. After signing these documents, they were notified with deferred refoulement orders[18] and transferred to the CPR Trapani-Milo and Caltanissetta-Pian del Lago. As recorded by ASGI some of these persons had already asked asylum or expressed their intention to seek asylum before the transfers and before signing the “scheda informative”.[19] Some of them had sent, through ASGI, a certificated e-mail to the Questura of Agrigento, expressing their will to seek asylum.

ASGI monitored the procedure applied to some of these third country nationals, who, only in some cases, obtained the non-validation of their detention orders in CPR. In these cases, the Magistrates considered their request for asylum had not been instrumental in avoiding detention and expulsion orders because it was presented during their stay in the hotspot, therefore before these measures had been applied to them.[20] (See Judicial review of the detention order).

The same situation was monitored in 2020 regarding a second “foglio notizie” submitted to the migrants to be signed by them in order to revoke a previous international protection application will expressed in the first “foglio notizie”. Following two appeals to the Court of Cassation made within the ASGI In Limine project, the Court clearly stated that the compilation and signing of the second “foglio notizie” cannot affect the legal status of the foreign citizen as an applicant for international protection, resulting in the revocation or overcoming of the previously submitted application.[21]

In 2020 and 2021, hotspots were used as places for quarantine. ASGI has monitored and reported situations of overcrowding and de facto detention beyond the terms set by the quarantine. (see Access to asylum, accommodation). Problems concerning health risks in the hotspot arises also in newspapers in 2021.[22]

Concerns have been expressed regarding the situation of unaccompanied minors coming from countries were no COVID-19 protocol is in place, who find themselves isolated in the centres without understanding the reason for being held there.[23]

Concern has been expressed in a 2021 document by “InLimine” on the lack of gender related measures in the hotspots, specifically regarding Lampedusa hotspot “Women who arrive on the island, in some cases alone and/or minors, and in any case already worn out by the experience that determined their expatriation and by the difficult and dangerous journey to Italy, would find themselves forced to sleep for days outside, on foam rubber mattresses placed directly on the ground, in the proximity of men who are strangers to their families, in promiscuous conditions[8]. The condition of strong insecurity is further amplified by the promiscuity and insufficiency of the available bathrooms. According to the testimonies collected during the activities of the In Limine project, there are only two Turkish-style toilets for the hundreds of people who occupy the outside area in case of overcrowding, which do not have a lock and are therefore ineffective in guaranteeing the privacy and safety of the women who use them. Even after the end of the waiting time in the external area, which, as mentioned, can last for days, and once authorised to enter the internal area of the facility, the women would find themselves at the mercy of the group to which the division of beds would be de facto delegated, since there is no formal assignment by the staff of the facility, and having to share rooms and bathrooms (which, even inside, are insufficient to ensure the needs of those actually confined there, and without internal locks) with men who do not belong to their families. In a context characterised by such  critical issues, no mechanism of vulnerability identification and subsequent referral, which should be implemented with the support of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) team as foreseen by the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) applicable to Hotspots[9], can be adequate and effective.”[24]

 

Legal access to the territory

Under the Italian Law, it is not possible to apply for international protection from abroad, nor a specific visa is provided for people in need of protection that need to access the country.

In consideration of specific humanitarian crisis, such as the one existing in Afghanistan in 2021, the Italian Government implemented the so called “humanitarian corridors”, subscribing agreements both with international organisations such as UNHCR and IOM and NGOs, in order to consent to allow a certain amount of people in need of protection to legally access to the country.

Such measure is however is not regulated by law, but only by Protocols created between the Minister of Interior, the Ministry of Foreigners affair and selected organizations, to which the Ministry delegates operations and the power to select the applicants that will be admitted.

No official procedure for applicants to follow in order to be selected for the corridors is established, nor is there a procedure to challenge the non-admission to the list.

For what concern Afghanistan, the protocol signed in November 2021,[25] destined to the admission of 1,200 people, was not yet implemented in spring 2022.[26]

On 23 April 2021 a similar protocol was signed with the Community of Sant’Egidio, the Waldensian table and the Federation of Evangelical Churches for the arrival of 500 people from Libya. As of March 2022, 99 persons arrived in Italy through this procedure,[27] and 93 more arrived by November 2021.[28]

In 2021 humanitarian corridors to admit 1,000 refugees hosted in Lebanon were renewed.

The ones from Jordan, Niger and Ethiopia will be concluded as of May 2022. According to information collected by Asgi, at the time of writing, of the 600 people admitted to access the corridors, 530 were actually included in the programme and arrived in Italy.

In 2021, in some selected cases of Afghans escaping from their country of origin after August 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs allowed the persons involved to apply for a humanitarian vista to access the territory in application of Article 25 of the Visa Code EU Regulation 810/2009.

That happened in application of   the Civil Court of Rome interim measure of December 2021 ordering to release such a visa to two young Afghans (see Access to the territory and push backs).

 

 

 

[1] Ministry of Interior, Cruscotto statistico giornaliero, 31 January 2022, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3w9aMuH.

[2] Borderline Sicilia, “Approccio Hotspot e navi quarantena”, 9 December 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3tbliiR. It should also be noted that the Government presented a tender in July for 5 ships to be operative until 31.12.2021, see: https://bit.ly/3MLsJFk.

[3] ASGI, Un resoconto della visita di ASGI al Centro di accoglienza di Monastir, April 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3CKQecX.

[4] ASGI, La frontiera di Pantelleria: una sospensione del diritto. Report del sopralluogo giuridico di ASGI, June 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3tcSwyD.

[5] Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, Annex to the Relazione al Parlamento 2021, 15 June 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3w94dbu.

[6] Borderline Sicilia, La Sicilia non dimentica – La situazione dei migranti e dei rifugiati alle frontiere esterne dell’Europa, March 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3MMMlrT.

[7] ASGI et al.,  Scenari di frontiera: il caso Lampedusa, October 2018, available in Italian at:  https://bit.ly/2UoWKDu. For an overview of critiques in previous years, see AIDA, Country Report Italy, 2017 Update, March 2018, 24-26.

[8] Article 10-ter TUI, inserted by Decree Law 13/2017.

[9] Article 6(3-bis) Reception Decree, as amended by Decree Law 113/2018.

[10] Ministry of Interior, Standard Operating Procedures applicable to Italian hotspots, February 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2kt9JBX, para B.7.2.c.

[11] Article 10-ter(3) TUI, inserted by Decree Law 13/2017.

[12] Article 28-bis(2) (b) Procedure Decree, as amended by Decree Law 130/2020.

[13] Moi Decree 5 August 2019, Article 2

[14] See the foglio notizie at: http://bit.ly/1LXpUKv.

[15] See ASGI, In Limine report Ombre in Frontiera, March 2020. available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3bYpTJF.

[16] See the foglio notizie at: https://cutt.ly/Kyv9KMr.

[17] See scheda informativa at: https://cutt.ly/Wyv9LQt.

[18] Article 10 (2) TUI Consolidated Act on Immigration.

[19] See ASGI, In Limine, La determinazione della condizione giuridica in hotspot, 29 April 2019, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/Iyv9XmV.

[20] See ASGI, In Limine, Esiti delle procedure attuate a Lampedusa per la determinazione della condizione giuridica dei cittadini stranieri, 29 mei 2019, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/Eyv9ChD.

[21] Court of Cassation, no. 18189/2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3tuhZQN; Court of Cassation decision no.18322/2020 available at: https://bit.ly/3vV7d7O.

[22] IlSicilia, “Migranti, esito vertice Procura di Agrigento: rischio sanitario in hotspot”, 30 August 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/360j7pM.

[23] MeltingPot, “MSNA: l’accoglienza dopo lo sbarco è sempre più difficile anche a causa del COVID19”, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3JdM4gc.

[24] ASGI – InLimine, “A gender perspective on the Lampedusa Hotspot: the systematic and culpable violation of women’s rights”, 3 January 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3Ia6gOJ.

[25] Available at: https://bit.ly/3w9VlRa.

[26] Afghanistan, quei corridoi umanitari che non partono mai (di L. Borsatti) – HuffPost – available at : https://bit.ly/3P1Utqv.

[27] UNHCR, Arrivati in Italia 99 rifugiati e richiedenti asilo evacuati dalla Libia, available at: https://bit.ly/3w3I79M.

[28] Ministry of Interior, 93 richiedenti asilo in Italia dalla Libia in attuazione degli accordi sui corridoi umanitari, 25 November 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/38wLop1.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation