Conditions in detention facilities


Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 30/11/20


In relation to detention conditions, the Reception Decree provides as a general rule that full necessary assistance and respect of dignity shall be guaranteed to the detainees. Separation of persons in respect of gender differences, maintaining, where possible, the family unity and the access to open-air spaces must be ensured.[1]

The Reception Decree states that foreigners detained in CPR shall be provided by the manager of the facility with relevant information on the possibility of applying for international protection. The asylum applicants detained in such facilities are provided with the relevant information set out by Article 10(1) of the Procedure Decree, by means of an informative leaflet.[2]

Detention conditions are monitored inter alia by the Human Rights Commission of the Senate, the Inquiry Commission on the reception system set up by the Chamber of Deputies, as well as the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons.


Overall conditions




Conditions in hotspots vary given that the facilities host different numbers of persons at any given time.

Due to the informal redistribution policy of migrants disembarked and the slowness of the relative procedures, the people disembarked and accommodated at the hotspots have lived a long time in conditions of overcrowding, with poor hygiene conditions and in most cases a de facto detention.[3]

As for Lampedusa, on 22 August 2019, media reported that the hotspot was hosting 250 people compared to the 96 official places.[4] Eight migrants rescued by the Open Arms had been placed in one  room, with suffocating heat and poor sanitation. In September 2019, NGOs reported that the hotspot was hosting up to 300 people, to face the informal relocation policies.[5]

As of 2 September 2019 Borderline Sicily denounced that the hygiene kits were not distributed to all migrants, as well as telephone cards to warn relatives of having survived. The telephones in the centre were broken, the mess did not exist and people ate on the ground or on mattresses, with food distributed under the sun and with queues of hour. The conditions of overcrowding were constant.[6]

As of 9 December 2019, some lawyers supported by ASGI filed urgent appeals the European Court of Human Rights, according to Article 39 of the Court regulation, to obtain the urgent transfer of the hotspot guests where survivors of the shipwreck of 23 November 2019 were also accommodated. The Court asked Italy for clarification as images sent from the guests inside the centre showed bathrooms without doors, mattresses without sheets and rubble scattered on the floors.[7] On 15 December 2019, after 20 days of staying, people were moved to other centres.

The Messina hotspot consists of a series of zinc plate containers capable of accommodating up to 250 people. ASGI, Actionaid and Borderline Sicilia published a report on the situation after a visit carried out on 25 July 2019.[8] Containers – air conditioned and equipped with small lockers to hold personal belongings – have a capacity of 12 or 10 beds (6/5 bunk beds in each container). The centre has 16 bathrooms, one for disabled persons, and 22 showers. Out of these, 3 toilets and 2 showers are placed in the area for "vulnerable" people. A tensile structure acts as a canteen but in the summer months it is not used because too hot. People receive a hygiene kit, at the entrance, and a pocket money of € 2.50 per day and 2 telephone cards, 5 euros each.

The report underlined some critical issues:

at the time of the visit, 5 couples were sharing the same container equipped with bunk beds. The guests reported that the hygiene kit was insufficient and so was the food. The asylum seekers present, were accommodated in the hotspot for about two months after having been rescued by Sea-Watch 3 and disembarked in Lampedusa on 29 June 2019. They had not been registered to the national health service. As a result they only had access to the clinic inside the centre. Though sharing spaces with adults, children could not be vaccinated and victims of torture or violence did not have access to specialist visits. People were found not informed about the redistribution procedure.

On 3 October 2019, the NGOs sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior reporting about the situation, as well proposing some recommendations.[9]

Taranto: for about three years the hotpot has been used as a place where foreign people apprehended along the northern borders were held. The people who land on the Apulian coast are instead transferred and identified at the "Don Tonino Bello" centre in Otranto. A delegation from ASGI and Oxfam visited the area in May 2019.[10] The centre, located near the steel mill (former Ilva), has 400 beds distributed between large tensile structures and containers, of about 8 places each, the latter reserved for unaccompanied minors, families and vulnerable people. According to what was reported during the interviews conducted by the delegation, among the people brought to the hotspot there are also asylum seekers, people with pending appeals, vulnerable people and, sometimes, unaccompanied minors. People are identified and then, generally during the same day, differently addressed according to their personal situation (reception centres, centres for minors, CPR).

A data access requested by ASGI in September 2019 to the Questura of Imperia confirmed that the transfers of third country nationals found without a residence permit were going on from Ventimiglia to the Taranto hotspot.




Persons held in CPR vary significantly in terms of social origin, psychological condition, health condition, legal status. According to the law, asylum seekers detained in CPR should be placed in a dedicated space.[11] However, as reported by the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons in his report of visits to CPR in 2016 and 2017 detained persons in all structures were in a precarious state without any consideration of legal status, not even that of asylum seekers.[12] In 2019, the Guarantor reported that he had recommended all CPR to favour as much as possible the separation between those who come from the criminal circuit and those who are only in a position of administrative irregularity or who are asylum seekers. Only the prefecture of Brindisi had responded by committing to identify different organizational methods. [13]

According to ASGI members’ experience, asylum seekers are not placed in dedicated spaces in CPR.

By the end of December 2019 and at the beginning of 2020 in many CPR there were riots due to the living conditions inside the centres. As denounced by the Guarantor and reiterated by the media, this is the only means that the CPR detainees have to contest the reception conditions. Unlike detainees in prisons, they have no complaints rights.[14]

After visiting the CPR of Turin, on January 2020, the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons of Turin compared the persons’ cells to “zoo cages” and denounced that the migrants had their phones seized. The member of the College of the National Guarantor denounced that migrants lived in seven-person rooms where the bathroom is not even separated from the place where people sleep and that there were no places to sit, therefore foreign citizens are forced to eat on the ground with dishes on their legs.

The National Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, heard at Parliament in June 2019, reported that during a visit to the CPR of Turin he found two rooms in the basement, the existence of which had been denied to the national Guarantor by the responsible authorities. The writing on the walls made it possible to understand the presence of people placed at least for limited periods of time inside those rooms.[15]

Following a visit to the CPR of Trapani in January 2020, a member of Parliament presented a question to the Ministry of Interior representing the poor living conditions of the centre with whole parts to be restored and explaining that the people detained had all referred to him about the difficulty of talking with lawyers, the failed or late responses to health problems and ill-treatment by law enforcement agents.[16]

Regarding the services, according to media, during 2019 there has been a significant reduction in personal services. The doctor who previously worked 144 hours a week is now present in the facility for 42 hours (-70.83%). The same situation for the psychologist, from 54 to 24 hours a week, to the mediator from 108 to 48 and even to the lawyer, from 72 hours to just 16.[17]

As of December 2019, a journalistic reportage informed that the Ministry of Interior declared that the CPR of Palazzo San Gervasio in Potenza should be closed and had ordered the progressive transfer of people to other CPRs. The reportage cites reports of IOM, UNHCR and the Guarantor for detained persons on the inhumane and degrading conditions of the centre. All detainees interviewed reported that the housing modules were missing doors and windows. Their statements were confirmed by pictures. The detainees also reported that the toilets were unusable and there were no sinks and the heating often did not work so the staff distributed heavier clothes. Staff reported there were no chairs but only a small table in the small room where the prisoners' lawyers have access. According to the media report the Public Prosecutor had opened an investigation that would focus in particular on improper giving of sedatives to detainees.[18]

Shortly thereafter, on January 2020, another news report reported an ongoing investigation on abuses inside the centre and sedated detainees.[19]

On June 2019 the Guarantor for detained persons reported concern about the fact that, at Palazzo San Gervasio, there is not even a place to eat so the detainees eat on the bed, and about the fact that people work in structures that are basically containers, and lawyers also meet people in containers.[20]

In the CPR of Pian del Lago, Caltanissetta, on 12 January 2020, a Tunisian citizen lost his life. Lasciatecientrare declared to have received several reports from the persons inside the centre on the ignoble conditions of the centre, cold rooms, no windows, and requests for inmate health care remained unanswered.[21]

On 18 January 2020, a man from Georgia died in the CPR of Gradisca d’Isonzo (Gorizia). The testimony collected from the inside revealed heavy violence committed by law enforcement officers. [22]  However, the first results of the appraisal ordered by the prosecutor, even though excluding that death is natural, exclude a direct connection to the violence suffered.[23]

In providing for a distribution of CPR on the entire national territory, Decree Law 13/2017, implemented by L 46/2017, specified that this should have followed an accentuation of the role of the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, and an extension of the power of access for those who do not require authorisation, and an absolute respect for human dignity.


Transit zones


Between January and February 2019, the Guarantor for detained persons visited the transit areas of the airports of Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa where people who just landed in Italy are held while awaiting for the immediate refoulement to be carried out.

With respect to the areas where the detention takes place in Rome, the Guarantor observed that the place appears unsuitable for the permanence of people for a period of time longer than 24 hours. The European Committee in its report on the visit carried out in June 2017, pointed out the inadequacy of the environments, in particular due to the lack of natural air and light and the impossibility of accessing the outdoors and the transfer of people to other facilities in case of stay longer than 24 hours.[24]

As for Malpensa, according to the testimonies collected by ASGI within the In Limine project, the size of the common room is about 8×6 meters, not enough to accommodate the number of people who are kept there. The room has no windows and the camp beds are made of iron, without mattresses. The possibility of going out in the open air is not given.[25]




According to Article 4(h) of the CIE Regulation, social, recreational and religious activities shall be organised in the centres. However, the shortage of recreational activities in CPR bears especially negative impact on living conditions of people staying in the CPR 24 hours a day for prolonged periods, thus being one of the main factors entailing distress among people in detention.

By January 2020, the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons of Turin stressed that in the CPR of Turin there are no re-educational courses or activities of any kind and recommended, among other things, the organization of recreational activities (with the involvement of external subjects as well), the use of the sports centre and the possibility to switch the light on and off independently and not centrally.[26]

As for the CPR of Gradisca d’Isonzo, after the visit made on 20 January 2020, following the death of the Georgian citizen, an Italian parliamentarian reported that many of the guests were taking sedatives and psychotropic drugs and that the common and leisure areas, such as the canteen or the football field, were not used. He also reported an abnormal deterioration situation, since it was a new structure and he underlined how people were living in cages in situations of coexistence between those who had committed crimes and those who were only in a situation of administrative irregularity.[27]


Health care and special needs in detention


Access to health care is guaranteed to all persons in detention. The law provides as a general rule that full necessary assistance and respect of dignity shall be guaranteed.[28] The law further states that the fundamental rights of detained persons must be guaranteed and that inside detention centres essential health services are provided.[29]

Moreover, the Reception Decree provides that asylum seekers with health problems incompatible with the detention conditions cannot be detained and, after the amendment made by Decree Law 13/2017 and L 46/2017, it also establishes the incompatibility of detention for vulnerable people, as defined by Article 17 of the Reception Decree.

However, the delegates of the LaciateCIEntrare campaign who visited the CPR of Bari and Brindisi on 5 August 2018 verified the presence of people whose state of health was incompatible with the state of detention.[30]

Within the socio-health services provided in the CPR, a periodical assessment of the conditions of vulnerability requiring special reception measures must be ensured.[31] In this regard, Article 3 of the CIE Regulation describes in details the health services provided to detainees and the possibility for the Prefecture to stipulate specific agreements with the public health units.

The CPR of Caltanissetta is equipped with a separate area dedicated to medical care.[32] Following the death of a Tunisian man on 12 January 2020, the other detainees reported he had not received enough health assistance.

Both in the CPR of Brindisi and in that of Turin, the Guarantor verified between February and March 2018 the practice of using the rooms of sanitary isolation for punitive purposes, although the isolation is not provided for by the CIE Regulation even as an exceptional measure.

By December 2018, the Human Rights and Migration Law Clinic published the "Uscita d’Emergenza" report, relating to the health protection of detainees within the CPR of Turin. The report revealed that

the health policy within the Centre was highly characterized by an informal approach, since no type of prior technical evaluation was foreseen regarding the compatibility between the migrant's state of health and the restrictive measure. Even therapeutic continuity was hardly guaranteed. In addition, the number of medical personnel was not appropriate for the number of guests within the Turin facility.[33]


[1]Article 7(1) Reception Decree.

[2]Article 6(4) Reception Decree.

[3] Bordeline Sicilia, Europea Frotniera Sud, un’altra estate di morti in mare e diritti calpestati, 2 September 2019, available in Italian at:; see also: Border Criminologies blog, Forced Mobility and the Hotspot Approach: The Case of the Informal Disembarkation Agreements, 12 February 2020, available in English at:

[4], Lampedusa, l’hotspot è sovraffollato, i migranti di Open Arms in 8 in una stanza, 22 August 2019 available in Italian at:

[5] Borderline Sicilia, 29 September 2019,

[6] Bordeline Sicilia, September 2019, available in Italian at:

[7] ASGI, La Corte Edu chiede chiarimenti all’Italia sull’hotspot di Lampedusa, 12 December 2019, available in Italian at: See also, video TG 3 Regione Sicilia, 6 December 2019,

[8] ASGI; Hotspot e redistribuzione dei migranti: troppe criticità. Le richieste di ASGI, Borderline e ActionAid, 9 October 2019, available in Italian at:


[10]See ASGI,

[11]Article 6(2) Reception Decree.

[12]  Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, Rapporto sulle visite nei CIE e negli hotspot in Italia 2016/2017, 11 May 2017, 29.

[13] Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, Relazione al Parlamento 2019, 26 March 2019, available in Italian at:, page 196.

[14]  Il Dubbio, CPR da Gorizia a Trapani migranti in rivolta per le condizioni di vita, 8 January 2020,  , available in Italian at:

[15]  Hearing at Chamber of Deputies of the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons,  27 June 2019, available in Italian at:

[16]  Trapani Oggi, Cosa succede al CPR di Trapani Milo Interrogazione al Ministro dell’Interno del deputato del PD Fausto Raciti, 22 January 2020, available in Italian at:

[17] Article of Torino Oggi, “CPR di Corso Brunelleschi il Garante lancia l’allarme Gabbrie come allo zoo una persona non può soggiornare lì”, 22 January 2020 available in Italian at:

[18]  La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, “Un lager chiamato CPR che non riesce a chiudere. Il Ministero: “Svuotate la struttura”. Ma resta lettera morta”, 14 December 2019.

[19] Il Mattino di Foggia, "Maltrattamenti nel Cpr di Palazzo San Gervasio", la scoperta del giornalista investigativo Amendolara su Panorama: "Sedavano gli immigrati", 9 January 2020.

[20] Hearing at Chamber of Deputies of the Guarantor for the rights of detained persons,  27 June 2019, available in Italian at:

[21] Lasciatecientrare, Aymen, morto di CPR a Caltanissetta, 12 January 2020.

[22] Avvenire, La denuncia. Migrante georgiano morto a Gradisca. Lo spettro di un nuovo "caso Cucchi"?, 23 January 2020.

[23]  Avvenire, “Autopsia sul migrante morto a Gradisca “ Decesso non dovuto a percosse” 27 January 2020.

[24] European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), available at:

[25] ASGI, In Limine, Il valico di frontiera aeroportuale di Malpens, La privazione della libertà dei cittadini stranieri in attesa di respingimento immediato, available in Italian at:

[26] CittAgorà, “CPR la Garante comunale per i detenuti monitora le condizioni di vita del centro, 21 January 2020.

[27]Il Friuli, Il Garante visita il Cpr di Gradisca: "Situazione tesa", 20 January 2020.

[28]  Article 14(2) TUI.

[29] Article 21(1) and (2) PD 394/1999.

[30] LasciateCIEntrare, ‘Migranti, Lasciatecientrare nei CPR di Bari e Brindisi online il report’, 7 November 2018, available in Italian at:

[31] Article 7(5) Reception Decree.

[32]  Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, Rapporto sulle visite nei CIE e negli hotspot in Italia 2016/2017, 11 May 2017, 15.

[33] Human Rights and Migration Law Clinic (HRMLC), Uscita d’Emergenza, Rapporto sulla tutela della salute dei trattenuti nel CPR di Torino, December 2018, available in Italian 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