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.
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 the 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 2021.
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 and 2021 EASO staff has been deployed in Tribunals supporting judges in asylum cases.
Throughout the year, EASO carried out 8,154 registrations in Italy. Of these, 68% related to the top 10 citizenships of applicants, mainly from Bangladesh (1,161), Nigeria (891) and Pakistan (700).
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 2020 and 2021. 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.
The quarantine on ships created several problems to access the asylum procedure. As observed inter alia by ASGI, people do not receive any information on the right to asylum on board. After a visit to a quarantine ship, the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, highlighted the lack of information to migrants on their rights due to the absence of written and multilingual materials available to Red Cross workers and volunteers.
This situation mainly affected migrants belonging to some nationalities who, after being disembarked, received a notification of an expulsion or a deferred refoulement. In particular, this situation was found for the vast majority of Tunisian migrants interviewed within the Inlimine project or legally helped to access the asylum procedure. The same practice was already recorded, in 2019 at the Hotspots. As recorded by ASGI, those Tunisians who tried to express their will to seek asylum on the ships were not considered as asylum seekers and sent, after quarantine, to CPRs after filling “fogli notizie” not translated in their language and without the actual assistance of a cultural mediator. This also happened in cases where they contacted a lawyer while on board, who subsequently submitted their asylum request to the competent Questura.
In cases where, once in CPR, people managed to submit an asylum application, this was, with few exceptions, considered instrumental in avoiding repatriation, and therefore not useful at avoiding detention.
In 2020, the Court of Cassation reaffirmed the close connection between compliance with information obligations and the effectiveness of the right of access to the asylum procedure, both denied by the value attributed to the so-called “foglio notizie” or second “foglio notizie”, which are often submitted to foreign citizens who arrive at the border without a prior or contextual explanation on the meaning of their signature.
As for the eastern border, as mentioned, the practice of readmissions to Slovenia prevented at least 1,300 people in 2020 to access the asylum procedure.
Also, obstacles to registration took different forms, including the following:
Limited opening hours and online appointments
The differences in local practices constitute a significant problem for what concerns registration, as asylum seekers should obtain information on how to access the specific Questura office they are interested in to introduce their application. In some cases, appointments can be booked by registered post or through a specific website, while in others appointments can be taken only in person at the office of the Questura; in these cases, prospective applicants are frequently forced to queue since the early morning outside the office, since only limited numbers of new applicants are admitted daily.
In 2018, the Questura of Naples introduced an online procedure for registration appointments, but it was only available once a week and allowed around 45 people to apply. In July 2019 the Civil Court of Naples ruling on an urgent appeal submitted by a citizen from El Salvador ordered the Questura to proceed with the registration of the asylum application. In 2020, the Questura cancelled its online system, but did not replace it with an alternative way of seeking asylum. Moreover, since it does not accept requests presented personally by asylum seekers, the only requests registered are those submitted through lawyers. Notwithstanding the copious litigation and the favourable Court decisions of the former years, accessing the Questura of Naples to apply for asylum remained difficult in 2021. Access is de facto limited to the people who book an appointment through a certificated mail – which can be done, in general, only by lawyers or NGOs operators. Moreover, the appointment is not given immediately but, depending on the workload, after one or even more months.
In Rome, ASGI documented problematic access to the procedure in 2020, when the Questura limits access to about 20 applicants a day with the result that many asylum seekers wait a long time before they can submit their request as there is no waiting list. 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 to 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.
In October 2020, the Court of Appeal of Rome sentenced the Ministry of the Interior to pay compensation for the damage suffered by an asylum seeker to whom the Questura of Rome had, several times, denied access for the formalization of the subsequent asylum application. The Court found that the applicant had tried at least 5 times to access the police station, twice sleeping on the street in front of the immigration office to be among the first, forced to live on the street, not being able to access the reception system, despite suffering from health pathologies. It granted compensation in his favour of 3,000 euros.
The situation did not change radically in 2021, when prospective applicants were still forced to queue from the early morning to express the willingness to apply for asylum, since only a limited number of applicants are admitted each day.
The access to the Questura of Milano for people who wished to apply for Asylum was very difficult; during the year 2021, a new office in charge of receiving people who wished to manifest their willing to apply for asylum was opened, it is dislocated far from the central office of Questura, in the northern periphery of the town. However, in order to be able to introduce their request, people are required to arrive very early in the morning, as a limited number of persons can enter each day.
In Palermo, instead, it is possible to book appointment by certified post and the appointment to formalise the request is given in a couple of weeks.
Many cases have also been reported to ASGI where asylum seekers were not allowed to enter the building of the Questura – especially in bigger cities – 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 act regarding the lodging of asylum applications unlawful.
In the first months of 2021, the Moi communicated the closure of the CUPA system which allowed, albeit with numerous critical issues, to fix appointments at the Questure also for the registration of the asylum request. The closure was not accompanied by the immediate implementation of a new booking systems with the result that some Questure such as that of Bari Bologna and Cuneo, where the Cupa system was in use, have communicated that, temporarily, bookings will take place in person only on some days of the week, but others have not communicated any alternative way of communicating with the offices.
Even if in 2021, the Questure were generally open, some limitations in the access due to COVID-19 measures continued, which sometimes affected the concrete for prospective applicants to manifest their willingness to apply for international protection.
In July 2021, Waldensian Diakonia published a report with the results of the monitoring carried out in Turin, Milan, Bologna, Parma, Perugia, Imperia, Rome and Naples, which confirms the difficulty in accessing the asylum procedure.
The introduction on 1 February 2022 of the obligation to present a COVID-19 “Green Pass ” to access all public offices created additional problems for persons wishing to apply for asylum, as no exemptions are foreseen, nor is COVID-19 testing provided for free.
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, in 2021, Questure continued denying access to the procedure in some occasions 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. In June 2020 the Civil Court of Trieste accepted the appeal and ordered the Questura of Pordenone to proceed to the registration of the asylum application.
In December 2020, the Court of Florence accepted an urgent appeal aimed at ascertaining the right to formalize the asylum application, against the refusal opposed by the Questura in Florence, without a formal provision, due to lack of documentation certifying the domicile, claimed through a declaration of hospitality.
ASGI recorded such requests throughout 2020 in Questure of Apulia Region, as well.
Nationality and presumed merit of applications
ASGI continued to document nationality-based barriers to access the procedure, specifically as regards people from Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Albania, Serbia, Colombia, El Salvador, and in some cases Pakistan and Nigeria.
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. This practice has persisted in 2019, 2020 and 2021. For persons who spontaneously appear before the Questura of Milan to seek asylum, it cannot be excluded that after the compilation of the “foglio notizie” is not registered as an asylum seeker, or even receive an expulsion order. The practice has been confirmed also from the Questura of Milan, in a letter answering to ASGI and NAGA, who asked for clarifications on the registering of asylum applications. In March 2021, ASGI recorded a case in which an asylum seeker went to the Questura of Milan to ask for asylum, but as he had indicated his willingness to support his family by working in Italy in filling out the “foglio notizie”, he was directly directed to the expulsions section without being allowed access to the asylum procedure. In this case, the police even drafted and delivered to the person concerned a written report certifying what happened. In general, according to ASGI information, this practice mainly concerns applicants from countries such as Egypt and Tunisia.
As of August 2021, Questura of Udine, Friuli Venezia Giulia, prevented the formalisation of an asylum application and notified an expulsion to an Iraqi asylum seeker who had declared, in the foglio notizie, stacked without any previous information, that his partner was in Italy. This, even though he had previously applied for asylum in Germany and therefore he should have at least benefited from the Dublin guarantees. An appeal is pending before the Civil Court of Trieste on this matter.
Additionally, even though the Questura is not entitled to know in detail the applicant’s personal history, some Questure ask the applicant to provide a written statement concerning his or her personal reasons for fleeing from the country of origin before filling in the C3. If the person concerned is not able to write, it has recorded happening that the interpreter writes for him or her.
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 sizable, has been reported for example in Como and Milan, Lombardy, Florence, Tuscany and Rome, Lazio. In Udine, after quarantine the asylum seekers are sent to the CAS, after which they wait on average from 2 to 4 months for the formalisation of the asylum application.
Access to the procedure from detention
In practice, the possibility of accessing the asylum procedure inside a pre-removal detention centre (CPR) results limited 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 recorded by ASGI, in 2021, as in 2020, in many cases the detained, not informed of the possibility and the way to ask for asylum, could not express this will even before the Judge of the Peace (Giudice di Pace) at the hearing to validate the detention. Only sometimes, subsequently, they were able to submit the asylum request thanks to their lawyers. This was possible, however, mainly in the CPRs, such as that of Gradisca, where mobiles are not seized.
Regarding the possibility to apply for asylum by applicants serving prison terms, ASGI recorded ample difficulties also in 2019 2020 and 2021.
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. Although the applicant had expressed his will to seek asylum several times, the Questura did not proceed with the application and the detainee 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.
 Information provided by EUAA, 28 February 2022.
 Article 4(1) Reception Decree.
 Visit on Rhapsody, quarantine ship, on 17 September 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3fahvKu.
 Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, 28 October 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3eycJYl.
 Court of Cassation, decision no. 18189/2020 dd. 25.6.2020.
 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.
 Court of Appeal of Rome, decision of 29 October 2020, procedure no. 7124/2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2Q3wZrg.
 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.
 Green pass is a covid pass that can be obtained both through vaccination against Covid (strong green pass) or in the simple version through a Covid screening – since february 2022, the simple green pass is required to access public offices, including Questure.
 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).
 Article 4(4) Reception Decree.
 Articles 4(4) and 5(1) Reception Decree.
 Civil Court of Trieste, Procedure no. 5159/2019, decision of 21June 2020
 Civil Court of Florence, order of 21 December 2020 – procedure no. 11307/2020, available at: https://bit.ly/3uDCVX1
 Article 6(4) Reception Decree.
 Civil Court of Turin, Order 4 April 2020.