Access to detention facilities


Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 31/05/23


Decree Law 13/2017, implemented by L 46/2017, has clarified that access to CPR is guaranteed under the same conditions as access to prisons. This means that the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons and parliamentarians, among other official bodies, has unrestricted access to CPR.

As CPR and eventually hotspots are places where asylum seekers are detained, Article 7 (2) of the Reception Decree applies. It states that UNHCR or organisations working on its behalf, family members, lawyers assisting asylum seekers, organisations with consolidated experience in the field of asylum, and representatives of religious entities also have access to CPR.[1] Access can be limited for public order and security reasons or for reasons related to the administrative management of the centres but not fully impeded.[2]

However, the regulation of CPRs requires an authorisation from the competent Prefecture for family members, NGOs, representatives of religious entities, journalists and any other person who make the request to enter CPR.[3] Prefectures apply the regulation of CPR significantly restricting the scope of the guarantees provided by Law 46/2017 and by Reception decree.

Access to CPR for journalists is also quite difficult. They have to pass through two different stages before gaining authorisation to visit the CPR. Firstly, they need to make a request to the local prefecture (the local government representative), which then forwards the request to the Ministry of Interior who investigates the applicant, before finally sending the authorisation back to the Prefecture.

Access to CPRs and hotspots for rights organisations and civil society remains problematic in practice and has often led to litigation in front of national Courts.

In 2020, 2 out of 6 requests for access in hotspots by ASGI were accepted. In 2020, Sicilia’s TAR had accepted ASGI’s request to suspend and re-examine a denial to entry in Lampedusa’s hotspot by Agrigento’s Prefecture;[4] in August 2021, Sicilia’s TAR has confirmed the accessibility of hotspots and other places of detention by civil society organisations ex art. 7 of the Reception Decree and has also clarified that no absolute limitation to the principle of accessibility is acceptable.[5]

In December 2021, Sardinia’s Administrative Tribunal (TAR) invalidated acts by Nuoro’s Prefecture not allowing access of civil society organisations in Macomer’s CPR, acknowledging the legitimate interest of rights organisations and civil society to enter immigration detention facilities to ensure the protection of fundamental rights. Similar judgments have been issued in April 2021 by Piedmont’s TAR regarding access to Turin’s CPR and in October 2020 by Sicilia’s TAR regarding access to Caltanissetta’s CPR.[6]

As mentioned above, in January 2023, Lombardy’s TAR clarified that, regardless of the rules of their statutes, associations that promote the protection of fundamental rights – certified through previous experience – can have access to CPRs, cancelling the Milan Prefecture’s previous refusal of access to the Milan CPR by a local association.[7]

Persons detained in airport transit zones have extremely limited possibilities of contacting organisations, protection bodies, family members and lawyers, as their access to such areas is strictly limited. The obstacles put in place by border authorities to reduce outsiders’ access to transit areas result in a series of violations, among which to the right to information, the right to defence (it is often impossible for detainees to physically contact a lawyer), and effective access to judicial protection. Moreover, the lack of access of civil society to these areas makes them almost invisible to public opinion. Furthermore – while it is difficult for the outside world to enter the transit zones, the authorities do not take any measures to ensure that detained persons can communicate outwardly. On the contrary, on numerous occasions third country nationals are informally deprived of their mobile phones and appointed lawyers have often been denied entry on the basis that these areas are considered as ‘sterile’, meaning that only certain categories of persons may have access, as they are considered of an extraterritorial nature.[8]

As of November 2019, ASGI asked access to the transit zones but the competent authorities never answered to the request.[9] In January 2021, ASGI sent a new request to access to the transit zones of Malpensa airport and Rome Fiumicino airport. The Central Directorate of Immigration and Border Police at the Ministry of the Interior rejected the request, arguing that the regulations provided for CPRs do not apply to transit zones.[10]




[1] Article 7(2) Reception Decree.

[2] Article 7(3) Reception Decree.

[3] Article 6 (4) and (5) Moi Decree 20 October 2014

[4] ASGI, Accesso agli hotspot da parte della società civile, October 2020, available in Italian at:

[5] ASGI, Hotspot di Lampedusa: Tar Sicilia conferma il principio di accessibilità della società civile ai luoghi di trattenimento, available at:  

[6] TAR Sardegna, 838/2021, published on 24/12/2021, available in Italian at:; TAR Piemonte, 360/2021, published on 6/4/2021, available in Italian at:; TAR Sicilia, 2169/2020, published on 21/10/2020, available in Italian at:

[7] ASGI, I diritti umani devono entrare nei CPR!, gennaio 2023, available in Italian at:

[8] ASGI, Le zone di transito aeroportuali come luoghi di privazione arbitraria della liberta, January 2021, available in Italian at:

[9] ASGI, In Limine Project, 18 February 2020, see:

[10] ASGI, Accesso della società civile alle zone di transito aeroportuali: il diniego della pubblica amministrazione, April 2021, available in Italiana at:

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