Pre-removal detention centres (CPR)
Under the Reception Decree, asylum seekers can be detained in CPRs – previously known as CIEs -, where third-country nationals who have received an expulsion order are generally held. The functioning of CPRs and their essential rules are laid out in the CIE Regulation adopted in 2014. The Regulation is currently under revision and its updated version is expected for 2022. 10 CPRs are present on the Italian territory, as detailed in the list below. As of the end of 2020, 3 CPRs (Caltanissetta, Potenza and Trapani) out of 10 are not active. The official capacity, with all 10 CPRs active, would be of 1,425 places. Effective capacity in 2020 and 2021 has been reduced, due to the temporary closure of some structures and COVID-19 restrictions: as of the end of 2020, with 7 out of 10 CPRs active at reduced capacity, and the total places available were 635.
The latest data available on capacity of CPR and persons detained therein are as follows, updated to November 2021.
|Capacity and detentions by CPR|
|CPR||Official capacity||Persons detained up to November 2021|
|Palazzo San Gervasio(Potenza)||150||781|
|Gradisca d’Isonzo (Gorizia)||150||702|
Source: Guarantor of detained persons, updated as of 15 November 2021.
As of 15 November 2021, according to data reported by the National Guarantor, Potenza, Gorizia and Turin were the CPRs with the highest influx of persons. The practice of detention in CPRs did not change even during the COVID-19 pandemic and the related lockdowns, which led to periods of border closure and suspension of connections with countries of origin: despite the impossibility of removal/deportation, the validations and extensions of detention orders continued without interruption. 
Decree Law 13/2017, implemented by L 46/2017, had foreseen the extension of the network of the CPR to ensure the distribution across the entire national territory. In order to speed up the implementation of CPR, Decree Law 113/2018 encouraged the use of negotiated procedures, without tender, for works whose amounts are below the EU threshold relevance and for a maximum period of three years.
The current situation in the 10 CPRs can be described as follows:
- Milan’s CPR, situated in the outskirts of the city, currently has an official capacity of 140 places; as of April 2021, 49 persons were detained. The new call for tender issued in April 2021 foresees 84 places and has been won by ENGEL srl (who is already managing Potenza’s CPR).
- Turin’s CPR, which was first opened in 1999, currently has an official capacity of 180 places. As of April 2021, 107 persons were detained. It has been managed since 2015 by Gepsa, a multinational society which had previously managed detention centres in Rome and Milan and is considered one of the main actors in the business of detention immigration. In September 2021, its isolation section known as Ospedaletto was closed down, following the report of the visit of the National Guarantor – which took place shortly after a migrant, Moussa Balde, committed suicide in the isolation section in May 2021 –, who had deemed detention in this area as an inhumane and degrading treatment and called for its immediate and definitive closure.
- Gorizia’s CPR, which was first activated in 2006 but has been closed from 2013 to 2019 following protests on its conditions, currently has an official capacity of 150 places; as of July 2021, 82 persons were detained.
- Macomer’s CPR is the first immigration detention facility in Sardinia and was opened in 2020 (after a structure previously hosting a high security prison was repurposed). It is situated on the outskirts of a small town, more than 50 kilometres away from the closest cities (Nuoro and Oristano). It has an official capacity of 50 places; as of July 2021, it hosted 38 detainees.
- Rome’s CPR, situated in Ponte Galeria, in the outskirts of the city, has been active since 1998. It currently has an official capacity of 210 places. It is the only Italian immigration detention facility for women; the women’s section was partially renovated in 2020, but some parts remain in dire conditions. As of July 2021, only 20 persons (18 men and 2 women) were detained.
- Potenza’s CPR is located in the outskirts of the town of Palazzo San Gervasio, 65 km from Potenza, in a very isolated and hard to reach area, and it has an official capacity of 150 places. It was reopened in 2018 and it has recently been closed for renovation from May 2020 to February 2021. It has an official capacity of 150 places and, as of mid-November, 781 persons were reportedly detained there in 2021 (more than 17% of the total of persons detained in CPRs).
- Bari’s CPR has an official capacity of 126 places and has been managed from 2018 to 2021 by the social cooperative Badia Grande (which also manages Trapani’s CPR). In October 2021, several CPR’s managers, including the director of the CPR until February 2021, were involved in criminal investigations for serious malpractices in the management of the CPR.
- Brindisi’s CPR has an official capacity of 48 places and as of mid-November 209 persons (less than 5% of the total of persons detained in CPRs) were detained here in 2021.
- Caltanissetta’s CPR currently has an official capacity of 96 places; as reported in mid-November 2021, 426 persons (around 10%) had been detained there throughout the year. It has been closed down for renovations, following requests by the National Guarantor, from April 2020 to May 2021.
- Trapani’s CPR currently has an official capacity of 150 places; as of mid-November, 121 persons were detained here in 2021. It has been closed for renovations from April 2020 to August 2021.
From a gender perspective, it must be noted that – also due to the temporary closure in 2021 of the women section of Rome’s CPR, which is the only present on the national territory –a sharp decrease in numbers of women detained in CPRs was registered. In 2021, as of November, only 5 women (2 Tunisian, 2 Nigerians, and 1 Romanian) were detained in the CPR, only 1 of which was returned (3 were released following non-validation of the detention order by the judge and 1 as applicant for international protection). In 2020, 223 women had been detained in the CPR, representing circa 4% of the total detained persons; the most represented nationalities were China (47 women), Nigeria (33), Morocco (14), Tunisia (13), Ukraine and Georgia (12); 31 were returned, 146 were released due to non-validation of the detention by the judge, 26 were released upon reaching maximum term of detention, 9 were released as applicants for international protection.
Access to CPRs for rights organisations and civil society remains problematic in practice. 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 with regard to access to Turin’s CPR and in October 2020 by Sicilia’s TAR with regard to access to Caltanissetta’s CPR.
LD 113/2018, converted into Law 132/2018, has expanded the places of deprivation of liberty suitable for the administrative detention of foreign citizens pending the validation of immediate accompaniment to the border. The new Art. 13 para 5-bis of the Consolidated Immigration Act introduced the possibility that the justice of peace, at the request of the Questore, orders the detention of the aforementioned foreign citizens in “suitable structures” (“locali idonei”) if there are no available places in CPRs. Furthermore, if the unavailability of places in CPRs persists after the validation hearing, it is possible to order the detention of foreign citizens in “suitable premises at the border office concerned, until the actual removal is carried out and, in any case, no later than forty-eight hours following the hearing of validation”. The provision has been criticised by the National Guarantor as well as by ASGI for its indeterminacy, as the methods of detention and the suitability criteria are not specified, leaving it exclusively to the discretion of the public security authorities. The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances, in the concluding observations of its 2019 report on Italy, expressed concern for the unavailability of a list of locali idonei, which effectively prevents the Guarantor from monitoring them. The Committee thus recommended the Italian government to immediately publish the aforementioned list and guarantee access by the National Guarantor to these premises.
LD 130/2020, converted into Law 173/2020, confirmed the expansion of places of deprivation of liberty intended for the detention of foreign citizens pending validation of the forced repatriation, but – in pursuance of recommendations made by the National Guarantor – specified that art. 14 of the TUI applies: in such places of detention, adequate sanitary and housing standards must be ensured and fundamental rights must be guaranteed. These places are thus to be considered as surrogates of CPRs and respond to the same standards. The National Guarantor has further clarified that all the protections provided for in the Cpr compatible with a short stay, including the possibility of visits by persons authorised to access the institutes prisons and security rooms as well as by national and international protection organisations.
There is no data on detention in the so-called “locali idonei” that took place from the entry into force of the rule. ASGI, as part of the In Limine project, has thus urged the publication of this information, sending FOIA requests to concerned authorities in July 2020. All questioned Questure (Bergamo, Bologna, Brescia, Milan, Parma, Roma) replied to the request for information, although often information was only partial due to alleged reasons of public security. More specifically, none of the Offices – notwithstanding requests made by the National Guarantor as well as the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances – has shared a list of structures identified as locali idonei, nor provided clear information on criteria to be used in the suitability assessment, merely citing inputs received on this by the National Guarantor but not confirming whether any specific regulation has been adopted.
The disclosed information confirms that all the 6 Questure questions have implemented detention in “locali idonei”. Between July 2019 and July 2020, at least 393 persons were held here in locali idonei. Most represented nationalities appear to be Morocco, Albania and Tunisia.
The National Guarantor has visited, between December 2020 and January 2021, in “locali idonei” in Immigration Offices in Parma and Bologna. The former has 2 holding chambers, in which 38 persons were held pursuant to Art. 13 para 5-bis TUI; no critical events were reported. The latter uses the so-called “sale accompagnati” as locali idonei; in 2020, 17 people were held here pursuant to Art. 13 para 5-bis TUI; among these, 6 were held for 2 nights, 4 for 3 nights, 2 for nights.
As described in the Hotspots section, there are four operating hotspots (the fifth, the hotspot of Trapani was converted into a CPR in September 2018). In 2020 and 2021, hotspots were temporarily, partially or completely converted to quarantine facilities, with varying capacity and conditions. As of November 2021, Messina’s hotspot appears not operational.
As already noted, the hotspot approach is used beyond hotspots centres. In October 2020, ASGI reported that the first line reception facility of Monastir, in Sardinia, was being used as a de facto detention facility; a further visit in April 2021 confirmed persisting criticalities. In 2021, ASGI also reported on the many criticalities observed at the “new border” of Pantelleria, where newly arrived migrants are also channelled in hotspot-like procedures.
The Reception Decree does not provide a legal framework for the operations carried out in the First Aid and Reception Centre (CPSA) now converted into hotspots. Both in the past and recently in the CPSA, in the absence of a legislative framework and in the name of unspecified identification needs, asylum seekers have been unlawfully deprived of their liberty and held for weeks in conditions detrimental to their personal dignity. The legal vacuum, the lack of places in the reception system and the bureaucratic chaos have legitimised in these places detention of asylum seekers without adopting any formal decision or judicial validation.
In the case of Khlaifia v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has strongly condemned Italy for the detention of a group of Tunisians in the Lampedusa CPSA in 2011. In particular, the Court found that their detention was unlawful, and that the conditions in which the Tunisians were accommodated – in a situation of overcrowding, poor hygienic conditions, prohibition of contacts with the outside world and continuous surveillance by law enforcement, lack of information on their legal status and the duration and the reasons for detention – constituted a violation of Articles 3 and 5 ECHR, in addition to the violation of Article 13 ECHR due to the lack of an effective remedy against these violation. The Grand Chamber judgement of 15 December 2016 confirmed the violation of such fundamental rights. Despite civil society organisations calling out the continued practice of detention in hotspots in violation of the Khlaifia judgement, in December 2021 the supervision procedure on the implementation of the ECtHR judgement was officially closed. ASGI, A Buon Diritto and CILD have expressed concern for the closure of the supervision procedure and stressed again the persistence of serious and systematic violations of fundamental rights. Regarding the unlawfulness of detention, the Government asserted that it had fully implemented the Khlaifia judgement by enacting L 173/2020. Nevertheless, as pointed out by the National Guarantor for the Rights of Detainees, the 2020 reform did not introduce any new provisions related to hotspots, amending solely the legislation covering CPRs.
Although the new Article 6(3-bis) of the Reception Decree foresees the possibility of detention for identification purposes in specific places, such places are not identified by law. In a Circular issued on 27 December 2018, the Ministry of Interior specified that it will be the responsibility of the Prefectures in whose territories such structures are found to identify special facilities where this form of detention could be performed. At the time of writing, there is no information on the identification of these premises.
As those dedicated premises have not been identified, detention for identification purposes occurs de facto in hotspots.
According to ASGI, detention in facilities other than CPRs and prisons violates Article 10 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive, which does not allow for detention to take place in other locations than those designated for this purpose and additionally because in these places the guarantees envisioned by this provision are not in place. According to ASGI, the amended Reception Decree also violates Article 13 of the Italian Constitution, since the law does not indicate the exceptional circumstances and the conditions of necessity and urgency allowing, according to constitutional law, for the application of detentive measures. Moreover, the law makes only a generic reference to places of detention, which will be not identified by law but by the prefectures, thus violating the “riserva di legge” laid down in the Article 13 of the Constitution, according to which the modalities of personal freedom restrictions can be laid down only in legislation and not in other instruments such as circulars.
The lack of a clear legal definition of transit zones has led to a situation of legal ambiguity, on which illegitimate practises of refusal of entry and detention have been built. Border authorities, considering these areas as extraterritorial, act as if they were exempt from the application of constitutional, national and international standards for the protection of fundamental rights. This interpretation is untenable under the rule of law, since the jurisdiction exercised by the State over such places is not in question. People who are denied entry at airports are forced to wait for repatriation to their country of origin in transit zones. In some cases, this wait can last several days. Foreign citizens are brought back by the same company they travelled with to reach Italy. During this period, people are arbitrarily detained in grossly inadequate conditions and in the absence of the basic guarantees accorded to persons deprived of their liberty. Detention takes place in premises that are structurally unsuitable for the purpose, isolated from the outside world, without access to fresh air, with little opportunity to consult a lawyer, without any detention order being issued and therefore without any validation by a judge.
De facto detention is used intensively by the authorities in the management of migratory flows in transit at airports. Such deprivation of personal liberty is enforced in the absence of a legal basis, a maximum period of detention and a judicial review of the legitimacy of the detention, in inadequate conditions. Persons detained in airport transit zones have extremely limited possibilities of getting in touch with 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 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 foreign nationals are informally deprived of their mobile phones and, on several occasions, appointed lawyers have been denied entry on the basis that these areas are considered as ‘sterile’, meaning that only certain categories of persons may have access.
Responding, on 10 October 2019, to an open letter from ASGI, the Ministry of Interior, Central Directorate for Immigration, has made it known that the staying even for several days in the transit area is not supposed to be considered as detention, and therefore to have the defence rights guarantees related to detention because it is implemented as part of the immediate refoulement procedure that does not provide for jurisdictional validation.
However, the Guarantor for detained persons maintained that a de facto detention contrary to Articles 13 of the Italian Constitution and to Article 5 of the ECHR was configurable in the situation where people were unable to enter Italy since they were notified of an immediate refoulement measure and were obliged, at the disposal of the border police, to stay in special rooms in the transit area of the airports. This period of time varied according to the availability of flight connections with the place of origin.
During visits carried out in early 2019 at the Rome Fiumicino and Milano Malpensa airports, the national Guarantor for detained persons found that, in 2018, 260 people, in the case of Rome and, 333 people, in the case of Milano, were held at the border crossing for over 3 days immediately after their arrival in Italy, as they were considered not entitled to enter the national territory. Some of them were held in these areas for 8 days. In both areas, as evidenced by the Guarantor, access to lawyers is effectively prevented.
In 2021, the National Guarantor newly stressed concerns over de facto detention in transit zones, noting the persisting practice at air or port borders where the effective rejection of the foreign citizen present ai border crossings does not take place immediately and people be blocked for days in the transit area, and its criticalities in terms of lack of judicial review of detention as well as conditions of detention.
In 2020, 4,319 persons have been pushed back at borders; there is no data on how many were held in transit zones, and for how long.
Article 13 (5 bis) TUI, as amended by DL 113/2018, introduced the possibility of detaining people, to be expelled after being in Italy, in suitable premises at the concerned border office.
Responding to ASGI requests, the air border police offices of Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa communicated in early 2020 that still no premises have been identified within the transit areas of the two airports for the detention of those who have to be expelled and that therefore no detention measures had been carried out in these areas.
 Article 6(2) Reception Decree.
 MOI; hearing at Parliament of Director Bontempi, 25 November 2020.
 Article 19(3) Decree Law 13/2017 implemented by L 46/2017.
 Article 2(2) Decree Law 113/2018, implemented by L 132/2018.
 National Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, Chiuso l’Ospedaletto del Cpr di Torino: accolta la Raccomandazione del Garante nazionale, September 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3MVVKOz.
 National Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, Update on immigration detention as of 15 November 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3InUDEc; National Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, Relazione al Parlamento, June 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/35UHwx5; National Guarantor for the rights of detained persons, Relazione al Parlamento, June 2020, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3ibI5ov.
 TAR Sardegna, 838/2021, published on 24/12/2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/35YBFH4; TAR Piemonte, 360/2021, published on 6/4/2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3qcz1nI; TAR Sicilia, 2169/2020, published on 21/10/2020, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/37CPFqn.
 ASGI, I “locali idonei” al trattenimento dei cittadini stranieri: le criticità del dettato normativo, i rilievi mossi dalle autorità di garanzia e i dati raccolti da ASGI, April 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3MXOtxI.
 ASGI, I “locali idonei” al trattenimento dei cittadini stranieri: le criticità del dettato normativo, i rilievi mossi dalle autorità di garanzia e i dati raccolti da ASGI, April 2021, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3MXOtxI.
 ECtHR, Khlaifia and Others v. Italy, Application No 16483/12, Judgement of 1 September 2015.
 ECtHR, Khlaifia and Others v. Italy, Grand Chamber, Judgement of 15 December 2016.
 ASGI, Manifeste illegittimita’ costituzionali delle nuove norme concernenti permessi di soggiorno per esigenze umanitarie, protezione internazionale, immigrazione e cittadinanza previste dal decreto-legge 4 ottobre 2018, n. 113, 15 October 2018, available in Italian at: http://bit.ly/2FCsyLW.
 Guarantor report, page 7. See also, Questione Giustizia, Zone di transito internazionali degli aeroporti, zone grigie del diritto, 9 December 2019, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/EyO4wL9.
 Article 13(5bis) as amended by Article 4 (1) DL 113/2018 converted by L. 132/2018 introduced the possibility of detaining the people to be expelled, pending the validation procedure and in the event of no availability of places at the CPRs, in structures in the availability of the Public Security Authority. Detention is ordered by the Magistrate (Giudice di Pace) at the request of the Questore with the decree which sets the hearing to validate the expulsion. After this hearing, the Magistrate, at the request of the Questore, may authorize further detention, for a maximum of 48 hours, in suitable premises at the border office concerned.
 Article 13 (5 bis) TUI.