The previous report update was published in April 2020.
Due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in Italy, the Government adopted temporary measures, affecting asylum procedures. People arriving in Italy were subject to fiduciary isolation for a period of 10 days, following which they were entitled to access reception facilities for asylum seekers. Following the Decree of the Prime Minister issued on 18 January 2021, the fiduciary isolation is provided for 14 days for people coming from certain countries.
The decree of the Head of the Civil Protection Department of 12 April 2020, allocates the responsibility for the fiduciary isolation and the quarantine of migrants rescued at sea or autonomously disembarked to the Ministry of the Interior. The latter provides accommodation, assistance and health surveillance of these people, with the operational assistance of the Italian Red Cross. The Department can identify areas or facilities to be used as accommodation for the period of health surveillance, after consulting the competent Regions and the local health authorities. In such cases, the Prefectures stipulate contracts for the necessary services. The decree authorized the use of ships for the quarantine and isolation of migrant rescued at sea. Since the beginning of August 2020, all migrants rescued at sea or arrived on the national territory following independent landings are subjected to a Covid-19 test.
Access to the territory:
- Ports declared unsafe: A decree issued on 7 April 2020 declared Italian ports unsafe, aiming at safeguarding the functionality of national health structures and containing the spread of the coronavirus. According to a study published by the Chamber of Deputies, it ceased effects on 30 July 2020.
- Indirect refoulement to Libya and privatised pushbacks were still reported in 2020. In February 2020, the Memorandum of Understanding between Italy and Libya was renewed, even though a Criminal Court ruled that it was not conform the Italian Constitution and international law. According to the agreement, Italy undertakes to continue to financially support, with training courses and equipment, the Libyan coast guard of the Ministry of Defence, for search and rescue activities at sea and in the desert, and for the prevention and fight against irregular immigration. For the two-year period 2020-2021, the Ministry of Interior has foreseen an additional 1.2 million euros in supplies. From January 2020 to September 2020, at least 9,000 people were tracked down by the Libyan coastguard and brought back to Libya. According to data collected by IOM present at the landing sites in Libya, by the end of 2020, 12,000 people were intercepted and brought back by the Libyan authorities.
- Readmission to Slovenia: Since May 2020 readmissions to Slovenia prevented over 1,300 people from the Balkan Route to access the territory. The Civil Court of Rome recognised the informal readmissions as illegal and ordered the issue of a visa for a Pakistani man who did not have access to the asylum procedure due to the readmission to Slovenia in July 2020. Two Directives on the age assessment sent on 31 August and 21 December 2020 by a Public Prosecutor of the Juvenile Court of Trieste authorized authorities responsible for controls at the borders and on the territory in Friuli Venezia Giulia not to consider as minors those who declare themselves as minors if de visu they do not appear as such. This aims to facilitate the informal readmission procedure to Slovenia.
- Pushbacks at Adriatic ports: As monitored by ASGI, No Name Kitchen, Ambasciata dei Diritti di Ancona and Associazione SOS Diritti, refoulements continue to be carried out from Italy to Greece at Adriatic maritime borders. In 2021, readmissions and refoulements were recorded to Albania and Croatia. 
- Access to the asylum procedure: The closure of the Questure – in light of the pandemic – ordered in March 2020, by the Ministry of Interior’s (MoI) Circulars caused difficulties, delays and in many cases the impossibility of accessing the asylum procedure at all. Nevertheless, some Civil Courts, such as the one of Rome, ordered the Questura to register the asylum application.
- Examination of applications for international protection: Territorial Commissions suspended interviews from 13 April 2020 up to June 2020. Territorial Commissions restarted auditions but with a very limited number per day, which resulted in further delays and postponements of many auditions. Notifications on the outcome of the asylum applications were not suspended. Terms for appeals, including those to lodge against the Territorial Commissions decisions, were suspended until 11 May 2020.
- Dublin procedure: Through a Circular Letter of 25 February 2020, the Italian Dublin Unit informed the Dublin Units that due to the ongoing health emergency all incoming and outgoing Dublin transfers were suspended. Without any official communication transfers resumed after summer, but, with low numbers for outgoing transfers. In many cases they were complicated by Covid-19 related health measures and by the unavailability of tests before departure.
- Manifestly unfounded decisions: A disproportionate and incorrect use of the manifestly unfounded grounds within accelerated procedures have been reported. This compromised the rights of defence and protection of asylum seekers. In particular, Territorial Commissions consider to be obliged to issue such decision in case of rejection of asylum application from people coming from safe countries.
- Reception in relation to COVID-19: Access to reception facilities for people disembarked has been preceded by a period of quarantine on ships or in facilities located at the border. In some cases the quarantine was extended due to contacts with COVID-19 positive cases accommodated in the same buildings or ships. Access to reception facilities for those who landed autonomously or for those who asked for reception directly on the territory was in some cases limited due to problems with covid tests. In some cases, access was conditional on a negative test, and in others it depended on a period of quarantine, but the public facilities to do it were not always available. The practices varied across national territory.
In a first phase, material reception conditions were extended until “the end of the measures in place for the health emergency”, even for those who would no longer be entitled to them. As of 14 August 2020, even though the law had temporarily extended the state of emergency to 15 October 2020, the Ministry of Interior communicated that accommodation measures for those not entitled to be longer accommodated were not included in the extension and invited Prefectures to conclude the relevant reception measures. Due to the lack of places in Emergency Accommodation Centres (CAS) the law stated that, until 31 January 2021, asylum seekers could be accommodated in Siproimi facilities only benefiting from the services as provided in governmental centres and CAS. 
- Reception system: Following legislative changes, the reception system for asylum seekers has significantly changed, at least in theory. The changes partially restore the reception model that had been outlined by the Reception decree of 2015, which intended a single system for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, albeit divided into different phases. The accommodation system (former SPRAR, then Siproimi) is now called S.A.I.: System of accommodation and integration, and allows asylum seekers to be accommodated in the SAI, although with a different level of services provided. The unclarity of the actual passage from first reception centers to S.A.I. centers remains, however. The law, as amended by Decree Law 130/2020, also ensures access to these centers only “within the limits of the available places”. The Decree Law also changed the level of services to be guaranteed in first reception centers and CAS. The changes remain – so far – mainly theoretical. New tender specification schemes published on 24 February 2021 do not guarantee effectiveness to those legal provisions, as only a very low level of such services have been included in the tender.
- Reception capacity: At the end of 2020, the number of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in the reception system decreased to 79,938, compared to 91,424 at the end of 2019. Out of them, 54,343 were in first reception facilities (CAS and first governmental centers) and 25,574 in SAI (former Siproimi).
- Civil registration: On 31 July 2020 the Constitutional Court declared the denial of the civil registration for asylum seekers introduced by the legislative Decree 113/2018 contrary to the principle of equality enshrined in the Italian Constitution Later, the Decree Law 130/2020, amended by L 173/2020, repealed the law introduced by the legislative Decree 113/2018. After registration, asylum seekers get an identity card valid for three years.
Detention of asylum seekers
- De facto detention: Prefectures did not establish dedicated detention facilities for identification purpose. De facto detention of asylum seekers continued to be reported in hotspots.
- Detention: Despite appeals from many organisations, detention in pre-removal detention centres (CPR) has not been suspended following the Covid-19 outbreak. Through a circular of 2 April 2020, the Ministry of Interior ordered Covid-19 tampon tests for newly admitted persons and, in any case, their isolation for the first 14 days.
- Detention after quarantine: For some nationalities, mainly for Tunisians, it has become the common practice that they are not allowed to express their intention to seek asylum. If they manage to express their intent after being sent to a CPR, their request is considered as a request to avoid expulsion, therefore they are detained for the entire asylum procedure.
Content of international protection
- Special protection: Decree Law 130/2020 enlarged the content of the special protection, allowing beneficiaries to convert this protection title and taking into account the integration in the territory as element to recognise it.
- Health cards with expiration date prior to 30 June 2020 have been extended to 30 June 2020. Residence permits, including those for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, with expiration date between 31 January and 15 April 2020, have been extended until 15 June 2020. The amendments to the decree law provided for a further extension of the validity of the permits to 31 August 2020. The validity of permits to stay has been further extended to 30 December 2020, later, to 30 April 2021 and then to 31 July 2021, resulting in an extension to 31 July 2021 of all permits expired in 2020.
Regularisation of foreign workers
From June to August 2020 – in order to ensure adequate levels of individual and collective health protection – the Government allowed the regularization of foreign workers who arrived in Italy prior to 8 March 2020, in specific sectors (agricultural work, assistance to people with pathologies or handicap, domestic work). The procedure was opened to asylum seekers allowing the applicants to change their permit into a work permit.
According to the decree (Art. 110-bis), migrants who have previously worked in the agriculture, fishing, care and domestic work sectors can ask to regularise their status through two different procedures:
- In the first track, employers could apply to regularise their foreign and Italian workers without a regular contract by putting in place proper employment contracts. This could thus only be activated by the employer;
- In the second track, third-country nationals who have been in Italian territory without a valid residence permit since October 2019 can apply for a six-month residence permit to look for a job.
In the first case the worker obtained a work permit to stay, in the second case the worker obtained a permit to stay of six months, convertible into a work permit only if, in those six months, he or she found an employment contract in one of the three abovementioned sectors.
Asylum seekers could access both type of procedures. However, the MoI Circulars provided that access to the second procedure was subject to the renunciation of the asylum application. Through the renunciation, to be formalized at the Questura, the asylum seeker could be admitted to the procedure as an irregular foreign citizen present in the national territory and obtain a residence permit for awaiting employment.
The Civil Court of Florence observed that it was necessary to ascertain that the applicant had received correct information on the withdrawal of the application and its consequences, before accepting the renunciation of the asylum application and the closure of the court proceedings. 
The Regional Administrative Court of Marche stated that the responsible Questura could not declare the application inadmissible due to the applicant’s failure to renounce international protection. 
Only 220,000 persons applied for this regularization. The limited number of applications is due to the strict requirements, the limitation of employment sectors and the fact that, for the first option, the application for regularization depended on the employer’s initiative.
 Ministry of Health Circular, 12 October 2020, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/2PMEAdB.
 Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers, 18 January 2021, Article 8, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/33bLpZm.
 Decree no. 150, 7 April 2020, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3dqzDxg.
 Chamber of Deputies, Emergenza Covid-19: le misure in materia di immigrazione, available in Italian at : https://bit.ly/33fvitW
 Avvenire, 12 February 2020, Esclusiva. Memorandum Italia-Libia, la bozza integrale: la partita dei fondi a Tripoli, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3bnLOJQ.
 Criminal Court of Trapani, sentence of 23 May 2019, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3dutMHl; According to article 80 of the Italian Constitution, political agreements can be signed only with Parliament’s authorization. Furthermore, it is an agreement concluded with a party, the Libyan coastguard, repeatedly referred to as responsible for crimes against humanity. Therefore, the court found that the agreement violates the principle of non-refoulement.
 Report of Fondazione Migrantes, Il diritto d’asilo, 2020.
 Civil Court of Rome, 18 January 2021, decison available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3xNnIEU; see also ASGI, Readmissions Italy-Slovenia are illegitimate, 22 January 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3eYDNiy
 See ASGI, Network Porti adriatici: continuano i respingimenti e le riammissioni, April 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/2Rsfoty
 Article 36, (1) DL 23/2020 of 8 April 2020, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3gczuQt.
 MoI Circular, 1 April 2020.
 Article 86 bis LD 18/2020 introduced by L. 27/2020.
 MoI Circular of 14 August 2020.
 Article 16 Decree Law 34/2020 of 19 May 2020, available in Gazzetta Ufficiale at (in Italian): https://bit.ly/2X1fcS6.
 Decision no. 186/2020 of 31 July 2020, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3tcKKkY
 Article 12 of Legislative Decree 9/2020.
 Decree Law 18/2020, Article 103 (3).
 Article 103 (2 quater) Decree Law 18/2020 as amended by L 27/2020.
 Decree Law 125/2020, Article 3 bis (3).
 Decree Law 2/2021, Article 5, amending Decree Law 125/2020.
 Decree Law 56/2021, Article 2
 Article 103 DL 34/2020 converted with amendments by L. 77/2020.
 Article 103 (2) DL 34/2020.
 Moi Circular of 19 June 2020; Moi Circular of 7 July 2020.
 Civil Court of Florence, intermim decision of 25 September 2020, available at : https://bit.ly/3up8TX6
See report from Ero Straniero, based on data provided by the Ministry of Interior, 4 March 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3nJtnao