Conditions in reception facilities


Country Report: Conditions in reception facilities Last updated: 20/05/22


Given the extremely small number of arrivals in 2019, the lack of access to reception is not related to the absence of places but often to the difficulties in the registration of the asylum application or to the difficulties related to the COVID-19 screening. (see Registration).

Reception conditions in the centres were inevitably conditioned by health measures and the COVID-19 pandemic. Regarding the facilities set up for the quarantine, the overcrowding that characterizes many of these centres made it impossible to comply with the isolation measures and did not allow decent accommodation conditions. The most serious case was the one of the Lampedusa hotspots, which with an official capacity of 192 places, hosted on average over a thousand of people in the summer months.[1] On 27 July 2020, 180 people fled from a tensile structure of the Civil Protection set up in Porto Empedocle, without windows and with a maximum capacity of 100 people, which at that time housed 520 migrants: inhumane conditions, in which people risked suffocation, as pointed out by the mayor of the Sicilian city.[2]

In October 2020, some asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection, who tested positive to COVID-19, were taken at night from a CAS in Rome, and, without any prior information, were transferred to a quarantine ship moored in the harbours of Palermo, Trapani, and Bari. A measure that NGOs defined unreasonable and harmful,[3] as well as illegal and discriminatory.[4] In other cases, people were placed in quarantine all, together which led to an increase in infections in a short time.

In June 2020, the asylum seekers accommodated at the Mattei CAS centre, in Bologna, denounced the serious overcrowding of the structure and the impossibility of maintaining personal distancing, as a result of living together in rooms with 10-12 people.[5] The Civil Court of Bologna rejected a legal action brought forward to support the need to move asylum seekers to places suitable for containing the pandemic.

However, on 15 February 2022, the Court of Cassation upheld the appeal lodged by Asgi, declaring that the appeal presented to protect the right to health of asylum seekers, to be implemented with personal distancing measures to face the pandemic situation and not respected in Cas Mattei, must be examined by the ordinary judge, because there can be no discretionary power before of measures pre-determined by the legislator.[6] The appeal is now pending in front of the Civil Court of Bologna.

In the former Cara of Gradisca d’Isonzo, Gorizia, first governmental centre, as of 23 November 2020 over 112 asylum seekers tested positive. The guests were divided and the people found to be infected, were temporarily housed in a tensile structure, and then in special modules. The Prefect of Gorizia stated in this regard that a clear separation had been made with the area hosting the hundred negatives, with barriers and increased surveillance.[7]

The National Institute for Health Migration and Poverty conducted a survey[8] from 11 May 2020 to 12 June 2020, on 73.7% of reception facilities (5,038 out of 6,837). It underlined that among the suspected COVID-19 cases emerged in the facilities, 89% had been reported to the national health service, which had prescribed quarantine in 39.6% of cases outside the facility and in 51.4% inside the facility itself. Only 44.1% of suspects quarantined inside the facility were isolated in a single room with private facilities.

There were 239 confirmed cases, almost all in the northern regions. All confirmed cases have been notified to the sanitary service, which has prescribed isolation at the facility for 61 people (25.5%). Out of them, 33 (54.1%) were isolated in a single room with private services, while 14 (23.0%) in a room with other people positive to the virus and 5 (8.2%) in a single room with shared services.

The 5,038 structures participating in the survey recorded a saturation (ratio between the number of guests and the total capacity) of 79%: the saturation was higher among the 169 structures with at least one suspected case (88.1%) and among the 68 facilities with at least one confirmed case (87.7%), while it was lower among the 4,970 facilities with no confirmed case (78.6%).

The survey highlighted an incidence of positive cases similar to the one found in the general population, with a geographical distribution of cases (higher in the north than in the south) that reflected the national data. In addition, it highlighted how, worryingly, the isolation of persons who tested positive had occurred inside the facility in a quarter of the cases and that, out of these, only 54% had been performed in a single room with exclusive services.

A monitoring conducted by the associations part of the Tavolo Asilo and Tavolo Immigrazione e Salute, (National Asylum Table, Immigration and Health Table) published in June and updated in February 2021 highlighted the practices found in some accommodation facilities in the management of COVID-19 cases.

The June 2020 report,[9] based on the data collected from 200 facilities between April and May 2020, highlighted the critical absence of institutional indications, which had led the facilities to organize their own solutions that had produced effective protection of the guests but that had also significantly reduced the reception capacity.

The report updated in February,[10] on the basis of data collected in October 2020 on 179 reception facilities, underlines the continuing uncertainty about national or regional guidelines and the risk that this translates into a vaccine plan that effectively excludes more fragile parts of the population.

With respect to the management of COVID-19 cases, the updated February report distinguishes two hypotheses:

  • In the case of COVID-19 positive people who do not need hospitalization, the transfer to structures set up by the health authorities or public institutions remains residual (27% of the answers).
  • People who had close contacts with people that tested positive or who have suspicious symptoms: the prevailing practice (62% of the answers) is that the person is swabbed and is isolated within the reception structure.

According to the report, the main criticalities are therefore:

  • difficult coordination with health authorities;
  • the absence of detailed protocols;
  • the absence of facilities for fiduciary isolation and the difficulty of organising isolation within the reception facilities.

The report also explains that, although guidelines on the management of structures with fragility and social marginalization were issued at the end of July[11], they are not easily adaptable to the concrete cases that lie ahead in the reception facilities.

As stated in Forms and Levels of Material Reception Conditions, the Decree of the Ministry of Interior of 20 November 2018 providing the tender specification schemes (capitolati) for first reception, cancelled all integration services as well as funding related to psychological support, which is now guaranteed only in CPR and hotspots. Conversely, former SPRAR projects ensured interpretation and linguistic-cultural mediation services, legal counselling, teaching of the Italian language and access to schools for minors, health assistance, socio-psychological support in particular to vulnerable persons, training and re-training, support at providing employment, counselling on the services available at local level to allow integration locally, information on (assisted) voluntary return programmes, as well as information on recreational, sport and cultural activities.[12]

Subsequently, the indications contained in the circular dated 4 February 2020 issued by the new MoI did not change the situation, allowing to exceed the prices indicated only in consideration of the higher costs of rents and surveillance.

In practice, reception conditions vary considerably not only among different reception centres but also between the same type of facilities. While the services provided are the same, the quality can differ depending on the management bodies running the centres. While the SPRAR system published an annual report on its reception system, no comprehensive and updated reports on reception conditions are available for the entire Italian territory.

It is not possible to determine an overall average of duration of stay. However, asylum seekers remain in reception centres throughout the whole asylum procedure, which may last several months, as well as during the appeal procedure. The Reception Decree does not provide any timeframe on the reception, since this has to be provided since the expression of the intention to make an asylum application and throughout the whole asylum procedure.

The recent adoption of the safe countries list, together with the issue of the border procedures and, more generally, the application of accelerated procedures, will probably have a significant impact on the times and on the right to reception conditions, denying, due to an incorrect use of the institute of manifestly unfounded decisions, the protection to guarantee to asylum seekers even shortly after their arrival. (see accelerated procedure).


Conditions in first reception centres

Whereas first reception centres are the main form of accommodation following the 2018 reform, the law still states that their aim is to offer accommodation to asylum seekers for the purpose of completion of operations necessary for the determination of their legal status,[13] and of medical tests for the detection of vulnerabilities, to take into account for a subsequent and more focused placement.[14]

First reception centres are collective centres, up until now set up in large facilities, isolated from urban centres and with poor or otherwise difficult contacts with the outside world.

Generally speaking, all governmental centres are very often overcrowded. Accordingly, the quality of the reception services offered is not equivalent to reception facilities of smaller size. In general, concerns have systematically been raised about the high variability in the standards of reception centres in practice, which may manifest itself in: overcrowding and limitations in the space available for assistance, legal advice and social life; physical inadequacy of the facilities and their remoteness from the community; or difficulties in accessing appropriate information.[15] Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that the material conditions also vary from one centre to another depending on the size, the occupancy rate, and the level and quality of the services provided by the body managing each centre.

Managers tend to avoid accommodating together people of the same nationality but belonging to different ethnicities, religion, or political groups in order to prevent of the rise of tensions and violence.


Conditions in CAS

According to the Reception Decree, services guaranteed in temporary centres (CAS) are the same as those guaranteed in first reception governmental centres.[16]

Following the reform provided by the Decree Law 130/2020 and L 173/2020, the services guaranteed to asylum seekers are the same as guaranteed in the SAI system. This remains largely theoretic. As explained (see: Form and Levels of Material Reception Conditions) the new tender specification schemes published by the MoI on 24 February 2021 do not intervene to concretely change the level of services in CAS and governmental centres, keeping the proportions between operators and people accommodated very low, providing for a negligible number of hours for the services provided and recognizing costs that are totally inadequate to guarantee the effectiveness of the protection.

The chronic emergency state under which the CAS operate has forced the improvisation of interventions and favoured the entry into the reception network of bodies lacking the necessary skills and, in the worst cases, only interested in profits.

The functioning of CAS depends on agreements by the management bodies with the Prefectures and on the professionalism of the bodies involved.

As discussed in Forms and Levels of Material Reception Conditions, the calls for tenders modelled on the Ministry of Interior tender scheme of 20 November 2018 resulted in the disappearance of many virtuous projects,[17] and the new tender specification schemes risks keeping the reception panorama unchanged.


Conditions in makeshift camps

As discussed in Criteria and Restrictions to Access Reception Conditions, at least 10,000 persons were excluded from the reception system as of February 2018, among whom asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection.

Informal settlements with limited or no access to essential services are spread across Italy. A report by MSF published in February 2018 described the situation in some makeshift camps.[18]

By the end of 2018, some of these camps had been rapidly evacuated. This happened to the Ferrhotel in Bari.[19] In both cases people were warned only two days before the eviction and it is not clear if they have been transferred to proper reception facilities or simply have been evicted.

The makeshift camp of San Ferdinando, Calabria, a tent camp where among others migrants, some asylum seekers and agricultural workers were living, was evacuated on 6 March 2019. Asylum seekers have been dispersed or transferred to CAS of other regions. Many of them protested because they would lose their job and salary.[20]

On 30 July 2019 the former Olympic village (MOI), in Turin, was evacuated and the over 400 migrants who were living there moved to other accommodations. The eviction plan, the media explained, was accelerated due to the extremely insecure conditions of one of the two buildings. [21]

Since January 2018, the Naga network has been monitoring the informal settlements in Milan where they found living, among others, asylum seekers who had no access to the asylum procedure, asylum seekers who were waiting for weeks to register their asylum application and who were therefore prevented from accessing the reception conditions, and also beneficiaries of international protection forced to abandon the Sprar/Siproimi reception due to the expiry of their project.

The report, [22] published in December 2019 offers a description of the types of informal settlements frequently subject, even in 2019, to evictions.

The report published by NAGA on December 16, 2021, highlights how the number of homeless persons increased in Milan; most of them are third country nationals under the age of 35, often migrants benefiting from protection.[23]

In Foggia, in the Capitanata area, Apulia region, from June to September 2019 the Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) mobile clinic assisted 225 people (209 men and 16 women) carrying out 292 medical visits and 153 legal orientation interviews operating mainly in five informal settlements: the Ghetto of Rignano Gargano, Borgo Mezzanone, the farmhouses of Poggio Imperiale and Palmori. 60 % of the people were regular asylum seekers or international protected or humanitarian protected. The remaining 40% were in irregular condition. [24]

The fifth Report Agromafie e Caporalato published by FLAI- CGIL two labour unions, by the end of 2020, highlights that, in the last decade more and more asylum seekers are crowding informal settlements sought close to the place of work in agriculture sector. To date, the report says, tens of thousands of asylum seekers are living in a promiscuous and degrading manner in these settlements.

Such examples, beyond Borgo Mezzanone, are S. Ferdinando, Cassibile, the Felandina in Metaponto area, Campobello, in Mazara, Castel Volturno (Caserta) and Saluzzo.[25]

The final report “The Bad Season” (La Cattiva Stagione)[26] written by MEDU illustrates the living and working conditions of the labourers and describes the unhealthy settlements, isolated without any minimum basic service and with pervasive exploitation of workers.

In November 2021, the Criminal Court of Pordenone acquitted the activists of the NGO Rete Solidale, operating in Pordenone, together with 9 asylum seekers, accused of having occupied a private parking to help around 70 asylum seekers in need of accommodation in 2017.[27]

In Trieste, some beneficiaries of international protection and asylum seekers whose receptions conditions were withdrawn, are facing a criminal procedure to have occupied the “Silos area”, a private area behind the train station. As emerged from the trial, they slept amidst garbage and animals with cardboard huts. The court of Trieste will rule on the case in June 2022.

In Ventimiglia, as reported by Refugees Rights Europe and Progetto 20K,[28] after the closure of the Roja Camp, people started once more to create informal settlements around the city.

The report, published in July 2021, informed that “hundreds of displaced people have been spending cold nights outside during the winter without access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene provisions and heating. Other settlements were created on the beach and in abandoned railway offices close to the former Red Cross camp, referred to as ‘red houses.” And that “the buildings were forcibly evicted by the police in April 2021. At the time of eviction, there were 50-60 people sleeping inside each building. The police, with the help of private companies, blocked the entrances to the buildings, sealed the water pipes and threw away all of the residents’ belongings.”

According to the report, “Most of the people in transit were sleeping under the bridge on the riverside, by the distribution parking lot, evoking a crisis similar to the one in 2016. (..) Without an institutionally guaranteed shelter, the organisations working in the area have only been able to provide a limited number of beds and hosting solutions dedicated to vulnerable people such as women, minors and families. The legal shelter provision provided by WeWorld, Caritas and Diakonia Valdese assisted 362 people in April 2021, of whom 29 were women”.




[1] See for example the video on the outcomes of the task force of the Sicily Region in September 2020, Le condizioni dell’hotspot di Lampedusa accertate dalla task force della Regione siciliana, 2 September 2020, available at:

[2] See the video posted by, Porto Empedocle, fuga di massa dalla tensostruttura della Protezione Civile: il video, available at:, 27 July 2020.

[3] See Redattore sociale, about MEDU statements, “Trasferimenti migranti navi quarantena. Medu: “Irragionevoli e dannosi”, 13 October 2020, available at:

[4] See ASGI; Illegali e discriminatori i trasferimenti coercitivi sulle “navi quarantena”, 9 october 2020, available at:

[5] See Meltingpot, CAS di Via Mattei, k migranti denunciano il sovraffollamento, available at:

[6] See ASGI, “Va tutelato il diritto alla salute dei richiedenti asilo nei CAS. Accolto il ricorso di ASGI in Cassazione”, and Court of Cassation, decision of 15 February 2022, no. 4873, available at:

[7] See Tg 24, available:

[8] Covid-19 national survey on the reception facilities for migrants”, National Institute for Health Migration and Poverty, 9 August 2020, available in Italian at:

[9]  Tavolo Asilo Nazionale, Tavolo Immigrazione e Salute, “Dossier Covid-19, procedure, condizioni di sicurezza, criticità nei sistemi di accoglienza in Italia”, June 2020, available in Italian at:

[10] Tavolo Asilo Nazionale, Tavolo Immigrazione e Salute, “Dossier Covid-19, update, 25 February 2021, available at:

[11] Interim operating procedures for the management of facilities with persons who are highly vulnerable and at high risk of health and social care exclusion during the covid-19 pandemic, available in English at:

[12] Article 30 Ministry of Interior Decree 10 August 2016.

[13] Article 9(1) Reception Decree.

[14] Article 9(4) Reception Decree.

[15] This is a recurring concern: Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Report by Nils Muiznieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, following his visit to Italy from 3 to 6 July 2012, CommDH(2012)26, 18 September 2012, 36.

[16] Articles 11(2) and 10(1) Reception Decree.

[17] This happened, for example, in Milan, Lombardy, where 11 third sector managers, in many cases small companies with a strong social vocation, decided not to participate in new tenders, See Openpolis and ActionAid, third report, available in Italian at: In Livorno, Tuscany, in 2019, the vast majority of third sector managers have decided not to participate in the new tenders, therefore all small and many medium-sized centres have closed and the number of available places in reception has drastically decreased. The migrants hosted in centres that have been closed have often been transferred to other locations. Others, not to abandon the integration paths developed over time, have decided to stay in Livorno with high risks of social marginality. See Openpolis and ActionAid, second report, available in Italian at:

[18] MSF, Fuori campo, 2 February 2018, 36.

[19] Il Giornale, ‘Bari, sgomberati i locali della Ferrhotel occupati da extracomunitari’, 12 October 2018, available in Italian at:

[20] Internazionale ‘A San Ferdinando sgomberata una tendopoli se ne apre un’altra’, 6 March 2019, available in Italian at:

[21] Repubblica, Operazione Moi libero: sgomberate le ultime due palazzine. Salvini: stop a nuove arbitrarie intrusioni, 30 July 2019, available in Italian at:

[22] Naga, Senza Scampo, December 2019, available in Italian at:

[23] Naga, Più fuori che dentro, available in Italian at:

[24] Immediato, Più di 200 migranti curati nei ghetti della provincia di Foggia, quasi la metà era irregolare, 21 October 2019, available in Italian at:

[25] FLAI- CGIL, Quinto report su Agromafie e Caporalato, 2020, available in Italian at:

[26] Medici per i diritti umani, report La Cattiva Stagione, 21 October 2019, available in Italian at:

[27] See Meltingpot, Pordenone: non luogo a procedere per le attiviste della Rete solidale e nove richiedenti asilo, 13 November 2021, available at:

[28] Refugees Rights Europe and Progetto 20K the Exacerbation of a crisis, impact of the COVID-19 on people on the move at the Italian- French border, July 2021, available at:, 12.

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