Access to NGOs and UNHCR


Country Report: Access to NGOs and UNHCR Last updated: 31/05/23


The Procedure Decree expressly requires the competent authorities to guarantee asylum seekers the possibility to contact UNHCR and NGOs during all phases of the asylum procedure.[1] For more detailed information on access to CPR, see the section on Access to Detention Facilities.

However, due to insufficient funds or due to the fact that NGOs are located mainly in big cities, not all asylum seekers have access thereto. Under the latest tender specifications scheme (capitolato d’appalto) adopted on 20 November 2018, funding for legal support activities in hotspots, first reception centres, CAS and CPR has been replaced by “legal information service” of a maximum 3 hours for 50 people per week (see Forms and Levels of Material Reception Conditions).

As for the Hotspots, the SOPs ensure that access to international and non-governmental organisations is guaranteed subject to authorisation of the Ministry of Interior and on the basis of specific agreements, for the provision of specific services[2]. The SOPs also foresee that authorised humanitarian organisations will provide support to the Italian authorities in the timely identification of vulnerable persons who have special needs, and they will also carry out information activities according to their respective mandates. Currently in the hotspots, UNHCR monitors activities, performs the information service and, as provided in the SOPs, is responsible for receiving applications for asylum together with Frontex, EUAA and IOM. Save the Children is also present in hotspots.

However, since asylum seekers can be detained for identification purposes in the hotspots, access to the guarantees provided by Article 7 of the Reception Decree in relation to detention centres should also apply (see access to detention facilities). According to Article 7, the access to NGOs with consolidated experience in protecting asylum seekers is allowed; it can be limited for security reasons, public order, or for reasons connected to the correct management of the centres but not completely impeded.[3]

This considered, by December 2019, ASGI tried to obtain access to the hotspot of Lampedusa but it was formally denied. The Prefecture of Agrigento alleged the lack of specific agreements with the Ministry of Interior, as requested by the SOPs. As regards to the access guarantees provided by the Reception Decree for detention centres, the Prefecture has considered that it allows limiting the access of NGOs just for the administrative management of the centre and that the presence of EASO, UNHCR and IOM, as well as the access of the Guarantor for the rights of detained people are sufficient to protect migrants.

ASGI lodged an appeal before the Administrative Court of Sicily obtaining, in September 2020,[4] a first interim decision by the Court which ordered the Prefecture to review the request. With a new provision, however, the Prefecture again denied access to the hotspot for reasons that do not differ much from the previous ones, but adding however reasons due to the epidemic situation of COVID-19. ASGI lodged a new appeal and, with the decision n. 2473 of 24 August 2021, the Administrative Court of Palermo definitively accepted ASGI’s appeal against the Prefecture of Agrigento’s refusal to grant access to the Lampedusa hotspot. The Court specified that Article 7 LD 142/2015 aims at allowing access to facilities where the asylum seeker can be detained, including the centres referred to in Article 10 ter of the TUI, i.e. the hotspot and that “limit the right of access only to international organizations, or to those with which the Ministry has entered into specific agreements, would integrate an unjustified circumvention of the principle of transparency of the administrative action carried out within the places of detention of migrants”.[5]

Access of UNHCR and other refugee-assisting organisations to border points is provided. For security and public order grounds or, in any case, for any reasons connected to the administrative management, the access can be limited on condition that is not completely denied.[6]




[1] Article 10(3) Procedure Decree.

[2] SOPS, paragraph B.2.

[3] Article 7 (3) Reception Decree.

[4] Administrative Court of Sicily, interim decision no. 943 of 24 September 2020.

[5] See ASGI: “Hotspot di Lampedusa: dal Tar Sicilia ulteriore conferma del principio di accessibilità della società civile ai luoghi di trattenimento”, 6 September 2021, available in Italian at:

[6] Article 10-bis(2) Procedure Decree.

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