Access to NGOs and UNHCR


Country Report: Access to NGOs and UNHCR Last updated: 03/06/21


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adopted on 20 November 2018, funding for legal support activities in hotspots, first reception centres, CAS and CPR has been replaced by “legal information service” of a maximum 3 hours for 50 people per week (see Forms and Levels of Material Reception Conditions).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, EASO 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]

However, 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 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 which is pending at the time of writing.

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.[5]



[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]           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