The Procedure Decree provides that applications for international protection are made by non-EU citizens on the territory of the State, including at the border and in transit zones, and in the territorial waters. Moreover, the Decree also provides for training for police authorities appropriate to their tasks and responsibilities.
Making and registering the application (fotosegnalamento)
Under the Procedure Decree, the asylum claim can be made either at the Border Police upon arrival or at the Immigration Office (Ufficio Immigrazione) of the Police (Questura), if the applicant is already on the territory. The intention to seek international protection may be expressed orally or in writing by the person concerned in their own language with the help of a cultural mediator.
PD 21/2015 provides that asylum seekers who express their wish to apply for international protection before Border Police authorities are to be requested to approach the competent Questura within 8 working days. Failure to comply with the 8-working-day time limit without justification, results in deeming the persons as illegally staying on the territory. However, there is no provision for a time limit to make an asylum application before the Questura when the applicant is already on the territory.
The law does not foresee any financial support for taking public transport to the competent Questura. In practice, the NGOs working at the border points provide the train ticket for that journey on the basis of a specific agreement with the competent Prefecture. However, this support is not always guaranteed.
The procedure for the initial registration of the asylum application is the same at the border and at the Questura. The first step is the identification and registration process, which entails fingerprinting and photographing that can be carried out either at the border police or at the Questura. This procedure is called “fotosegnalamento”.
The Procedure Decree provides that the registration of the application shall be carried out within 3 working days from the expression of the intention to seek protection or within 6 working days in case the applicant has expressed such willingness before Border Police authorities. That time limit is extended to 10 working days in presence of a significant number of asylum applications due to consistent and tight arrivals of asylum seekers.
Upon completion of fotosegnalamento, the person receives an invitation (invito) to reappear before the Questura with a view to lodging the asylum application.
Lodging the application (verbalizzazione)
Fotosegnalamento is followed by a second step, consisting in the formal registration of the asylum application, which is carried out exclusively at the Questura within the national territory. EASO has also provided support in this process from 2017 to 2019.
The formal registration of the application (verbalizzazione or formalizzazione) is conducted through the “C3” form (Modello C3). The form is completed with the basic information regarding the applicant’s personal history, the journey to reach Italy and the reasons for fleeing from the country of origin. This form is signed by the asylum seeker and sent to the Territorial Commission, before the interview. Asylum seekers shall receive a copy of the C3 and copies of all other documents submitted to the police authorities.
With the completion of the C3, the formal stage of applying for international protection is concluded. The “fotosegnalamento” and the lodging of the international protection application do not always take place at the same time, especially in big cities, due to the high number of asylum application and to the shortage of police staff. In practice, the formal registration might take place weeks after the date the asylum seeker made the asylum application. This delay created and still creates difficulties for asylum seekers who, in the meantime, might not have access to the reception system and the national health system; with the exception of emergency health care.
In 2017, 2018 and 2019 EASO has supported the Questure in the verbalizzazione process. According to EASO, by the end of September 2019, 296 different Agency experts were deployed in Italy. After the cut of the EASO staff in the Territorial Commissions in November 2019, the support to the Questure continued on. In 2020 EASO staff has been deployed in Tribunals supporting judges in asylum cases.
The Reception Decree provides for the issuance of a “residence permit for asylum seekers” (permesso di soggiorno per richiesta asilo), valid for 6 months, renewable.
Access to the procedure in practice
Reports of denial of access to the asylum procedure recorded by ASGI continued in 2019. Where they prevent access to the procedure, Questure do not issue any document attesting the intention of the persons concerned to seek asylum. This exposes them to risks of arbitrary arrest and deportation. Obstacles to registration can take different forms, including the following:
Limited opening hours and online appointments
Campania: The Questura of Naples has introduced an online procedure since January 2018 for registration appointments. Once an appointment is made through the system, the applicant obtains a printable receipt with the appointment date when the fotosegnalamento and lodging of the application will take place. However, the online appointment system of the Questura is only available once a week on Thursday mornings and allows around 45 people to apply. This means that the spot available to access to the procedure through that system are full within few minutes. Internet access is not ensured at the Questura, meaning that asylum seekers who are not familiar with the system can only access it with the assistance of volunteers. In light of the concrete obstacles to accessing the procedure posed by this system, an ASGI lawyer filed an urgent appeal to the Civil Court of Naples in February 2019 concerning a citizen of El Salvador who had been trying to seek asylum since July 2018. After a first rejection, the Civil Court of Naples again ruled on the urgent appeal and, on 29 July 2019, ordered the Questura to proceed with the registration of the asylum application.
Lazio: In Rome, ASGI continued to document problematic access to the procedure in 2019. On 4 February 2020, the Civil Court of Rome ordered the Questura of Rome to register the asylum application of a third country national who had repeatedly tried, unsuccessfully, to submit the application at the Immigration Office of Rome. The decree reiterates that the Questure must put in place an appropriate system for the exercise of the right of asylum and therefore the impediment deriving from the logistical needs of the public administration, which in practice allows a limited daily number of people who can formalize the asylum application – is not legitimate.
Many cases have also been reported to ASGI where asylum seekers were not allowed to enter the building of the Questura and were obliged to wait several hours outside, over a barrier, being exposed to psychological ill-treatment, such as verbal abuse and shouting. On several occasions, courts have found the refusal of Questure to take action for the lodging of asylum applications unlawful.
Residence and requirement of domicile
Article 5(1) of the Reception Decree clarifies that the obligation to inform the police of the domicile or residence is fulfilled by the applicant by means of a declaration, to be made at the moment of the application for international protection and that the address of the reception centres and pre-removal detention centres (CPR) are to be considered the place of residence of asylum applicants who effectively live in these centres. Article 4(4) of the Reception Decree also states that access to reception conditions and the issuance of the residence permit are not subject to additional requirements to those expressly stated by the Decree itself.
With these two provisions, the Decree has made it clear that the unavailability of a domicile shall not be a barrier to access international protection. Nevertheless, still in 2019 Questure denied access to the procedure for lack of proof of domicile e.g. lease contract, declaration of hospitality including the identity document of the host person. This was the case for instance in Lazio (Rome), Campania (Naples), Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Pordenone), Sicily (Palermo, Syracuse), Sardinia (Cagliari), Piedmont (Novara) and Lombardy (Milan).
The Questura of Pordenone, Friuli-Venezia Giulia denied access to the procedure from December 2017 to February 2018 to asylum seekers who could not prove a domicile in the region. Following ASGI intervention, the Questura allowed four people to seek asylum on 21 February 2018. However, after a few months, it denied again access to persons who could not prove a domicile and only accepted asylum applications from persons sent by the Government (transferred from the ports of disembarkation or, according to agreements between prefectures, transferred from places where the numbers were too high).
An asylum seeker from Pakistan whose brother was already accommodated in Pordenone, Friuli-Venezia Giulia was not registered as an asylum seeker because the Questura claimed he should have registered with the Border Police upon arrival. According to the Questura, he could seek asylum in Pordenone only if Pordenone was his place of residence, to be demonstrated with official statements. The Civil Court of Trieste recognised on 22 June 2018 his right to lodge an asylum application in the place where he was staying and his right to be accommodated there. The appeal by the Government against this ruling was dismissed on 3 October 2018. However, again in November 2019 the Questura of Pordenone denied a Pakistani citizen access to the asylum procedure due to the lack of a domicile. The urgent appeal filed before the Civil Court of Trieste is still pending at the time of writing.
A similar appeal was filed against the Questura of Milan, Lombardy. On 25 July 2018, the Civil Court of Milan accepted the appeal lodged by a Salvadoran citizen who had been denied access to the procedure since May 2018 on the basis that he had no declaration of hospitality. Again, on 21 August 2019, the Civil Court of Milan upheld the appeal of a Bangladeshi citizen who was prevented, after 8 hours of de facto detention at Immigration Office, from registering the asylum application because he had no proof of a domicile or residence in Milan. The Court observes that current legislation does not require the application for asylum to be accompanied by a document proving the residence or availability of a domicile in the place where the Questura is located, but the demonstration of having fixed – albeit temporarily – the centre of one's interests in that place must be considered sufficient.
Also in Bolzano, Trentino Alto Adige, the Questura refused a Palestinian citizen access to the asylum procedure not recognizing any legal value to the charitable residence he enjoyed in Bolzano after serving a few months in prison in Milan where, according to the Questura, he should have sought asylum. On 7 May 2019 the Civil Court of Trento ordered the Questura of Bolzano to register his asylum application given his documented presence in the city.
Also in Rome, Lazio people needed to present an urgent appeal before the Civil Court to obtain access to the asylum procedure. On 21 November 2018, the Civil Court of Rome ordered the Questura of Rome to register within 6 days an asylum application. The Court found that the refusal of registration by the Questura for reasons of insufficient proof of address – the applicant was in fact accommodated at the Baobab camp – was unlawful.
In December 2018, the Civil Court of Rome ordered the Questura of Rome to allow a foreign citizen to lodge a subsequent application for asylum, disregarding the lack of residence as irrelevant to access to the procedure. In February 2019, it also accepted the appeal filed by an Egyptian citizen who had been living on the streets of Rome for months because he was unable to apply for asylum. The Court relied on the testimony of a person accompanying the applicant who stated that the Questura had not allowed him to apply because he did not show signs of such vulnerability to take precedence over others.
Nationality or presumed merit of applications
ASGI has continued to document nationality-based barriers to access the procedure, specifically as regards people from Morocco, Tunisia, Albania, Serbia, Colombia, El Salvador, and in some cases Pakistan and Nigeria.
Lombardy: At the Questura of Milan, as denounced by the NGOs ASGI, Naga and Avvocati per Niente in a letter sent to the Ministry of Interior in April 2016, the Police submits a questionnaire to asylum seekers to assess, from the answers compiled, whether they are refugees or economic migrants, basically applying the same procedure as that applied at Hotspots. Those considered economic migrants are denied accessing the asylum procedure and notified of an expulsion order. The same Questura is also reported to deny access to the applicants' lawyers. Replying to the report, the Questura rejected all accusations, explaining, that lawyers are allowed to intervene on the basis of a specific mandate of their clients and for specific disputes with the immigration offices.
This practice has persisted in 2019. For persons who spontaneously appear before the Questura of Milan to seek asylum, there is a very high frequency of expulsion measures. This is also the case for people accommodated in temporary reception centres (CAS), whom the Questura considers as shipwreck survivors and not necessarily asylum seekers; it distinguishes the two categories on the basis of the aforementioned questionnaire. Throughout 2017, at least 23 people accommodated in CAS were issued expulsion orders after appearing before the Questura, and notified the Withdrawal of Reception Conditions at the same time.
Basilicata: The Questura of Potenza has started in November 2017 a pre-selection process for asylum seekers, whereby it interviews foreigners seeking protection and sets C3 appointments only to those considered in need of international protection.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia: Since 2018, the Questure have started to refuse lodging of asylum applications for asylum seekers falling under the Dublin procedure. When a Eurodac ‘hit’ is recorded, Questure move the C3 appointment to a later date and notify a Dublin transfer decision to the persons concerned before that date. Applicants are therefore subject to a transfer before having lodged their application and had the interview. This practice is partially changed in 2019 but not constantly.
Obstacles to nationals of specific countries continued to be witnessed in the Hotspots in 2019. In Lampedusa, Sicily, even before the list of safe countries was adopted, nationals of countries considered safe have been issued removal orders and have been returned despite having expressly requested international protection (e.g. Tunisian nationals).
In conclusion, even though the Questura is not entitled to know in detail the applicant’s personal history, some Questure, before filling in the C3, ask the applicant to provide a written statement concerning his or her personal reasons for fleeing from the country of origin. If the person concerned is not able to write, the interpreter writes for him or her. Because of this practice, the asylum application submitted to the Territorial Commission often includes several contradictions that the person is not able to explain during the personal interview for the protection assessment. This has been reported to ASGI for example in Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
The time limits for registration of asylum applications set by the Procedure Decree are generally not respected.
Differential treatment has been reported depending on whether asylum seekers were accommodated in a centre or lived alone. In Caserta, Campania, according to the reports, asylum seekers not living in a reception centre can wait up to one year for the registration, while those accommodated usually wait just one month. The same difference, albeit less sizeable, has been reported for example in Como and Milan, Lombardy, Florence, Tuscany and Rome, Lazio.
Access to the procedure from detention
In practice, the possibility of accessing the asylum procedure inside a pre-removal detention centre (CPR) appears to be difficult due to the lack of appropriate legal information and assistance, and to administrative obstacles. In fact, according to the Reception Decree, people are informed about the possibility to seek international protection by the managing body of the centre.
As reported to the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons during his visit to the CPR of Turin on 1 March 2018, detainees who intend to apply for asylum must address their request to one of the operators of the managing body. The latter then communicates to the Questura that one of the detainees has requested an appointment, without providing any indication of the intention expressed by the interested party. Detainees wait for the appointment on average between two to three days but, due to the lack of documents certifying the intention to seek asylum, the police authorities could also not be informed of their legal situation and repatriate them before the submission of the asylum application. 
Regarding the possibility to apply for asylum by applicants serving prison terms, ASGI recorded ample difficulties also in 2019.
On 4 April 2020, the Civil Court of Turin accepted the appeal lodged by an asylum seeker detained at the Ivrea District House, ordering the Questura of Turin to register the asylum application. Despite the applicant had expressed several times his will to seek asylum, the Questura had not proceeded and the detainee had received an expulsion order to be executed at the end of the prison sentence.
 Article 1 Procedure Decree, as amended by the Reception Decree.
 Article 10(1-bis) Procedure Decree, as amended by the Reception Decree.
 Article 6 Procedure Decree.
 Article 3(1) PD 21/2015.
 Article 3(2) PD 21/2015.
 Article 26(2-bis) Procedure Decree, as amended by the Reception Decree.
Verbale delle dichiarazioni degli stranieri che chiedono in Italia il riconoscimento dello status di rifugiato ai sensi della Convenzione di Ginevra, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/2UWOLx2.
 Article 4(1) Reception Decree.
 Civil Court of Naples, Order of 29 July 2019, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/Hyv9Bkf.
 Civil Court of Rome, Order of 4 February 2020.
 See e.g. Civil Court of Rome, Order 50192/2018, 18 September 2018, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/2ZeuMZE; Civil Court of Palermo, Order 9994/2018, 13 September 2018, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/2UxDNOS. For a discussion, see ASGI, ‘Ancora ostacoli, rimossi con provvedimento ex art. 700 cpc all’esercizio del diritto di asilo’, 14 November 2018, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/2GdE6Vf.
 Article 5(1) Reception Decree. According to Article 5(2), the address is also valid for the notification of any kind of communication of any act concerning the asylum procedure (see also Regular Procedure: General).
 Article 4(4) Reception Decree.
 Articles 4(4) and 5(1) Reception Decree.
 Civil Court of Milan, Order of 21 August 2019.
 Civil Court of Trento, Order 7 May 2019, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/Gyv9NW7.
 See Baobab website: https://baobabexperience.org
 The response appeared on the newspaper Avvenire on 30 April 2016.
 Article 6(4) Reception Decree.
 Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, Rapporto sulle visite effettuate nei centri di permanenza per il rimpatrio (Febbraio – Marzo 2018), 6 September 2018, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2uvu4cr.
 Civil Court of Turin, Order 4 April 2020.