Reception conditions vary considerably not only among different reception centres but also between the same type of facilities. While the services provided are supposed to be 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 within reception facilities. However, asylum seekers remain in reception centres throughout the whole asylum procedure, which may last several months, as well as during the appeal procedure, that can last up to 3-4 years, depending on the workload and backlog within the relevant court. The Reception Decree does not foresee a maximum time-limit for permanence in reception centres, but stipulates that access to reception must be provided from the moment the person expresses the will to apply for protection and throughout the whole asylum procedure, though this is rarely the case (See Access and Forms of Reception Conditions).
The adoption and the recent update of the Safe Countries of Origin list, together with border procedures and, more generally, the application of accelerated procedures, will 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 asylum seekers even shortly after their arrival. (see Accelerated procedure).
Conditions in hotspots
Current contracts provide that the following services should be delivered within the hotspot facilities: information provision on the asylum procedure and the reception system, social assistance, psychological assistance, preparation and distribution of meals, health care, provision of clothing and personal hygiene products, telephone card. These services must be provided with the proper care and methodologies when working with unaccompanied minors or vulnerable individuals.
The stay within hotspots should be limited to the time strictly necessary to carry out the identification and initiation of legal procedures. Italian law, however, does not provide for a maximum duration of stay, although these are closed structures in which personal freedom is limited.
In the absence of sufficiently defined regulatory provisions, it has often happened that migrants stay in hotspots for many weeks, due to delays in transferring them to government centres or CAS. Faced with continuous arrivals after landings and internal organisational and management issues, hotspots very often become severely overcrowded and their conditions severely deteriorate.
This is particularly the case for the hotspot on the island of Lampedusa, which, in view of its official capacity of 389 places, has often accommodated much higher numbers of newly arrived migrants in the course of 2022-2023, up to a maximum of over 3,200 people, 8 times its capacity, in February 2023. Several times, in the period between 2022 and the beginning of 2023, hundreds of men, women and children were forced to sleep outdoors, on makeshift mattresses, at temperatures as low as six degrees. The centre has experienced a number of power outages and shortages of food, clothing and running water. In this context of severe health and hygiene issues, three people died in early 2023.
Save the Children, active within the hotspot of Lampedusa, has denounced a now permanent situation of delays and shortcomings in the provision of the most basic services, even when directed to the most vulnerable. The NGO reported that 450 minors, 250 of whom unaccompanied, even very small children, had been present in the hotspot for over a month. UNICEF also noted severe crowding and delays identified as risk factors for the most vulnerable.
ASGI, as part of its InLimine project, carried out monitoring, data collection and a visit to the hotspot in March 2022, following which it produced a report highlighting the numerous critical issues identified.
ASGI has presented urgent appeals to the European Court of Human Rights in order to request the immediate transfer from the hotspot of Lampedusa of three families, including children, who were detained there for varying periods and in degrading material and hygienic conditions. By 10 November 2022, the Court ordered the Government to immediately transfer only one of the families.
In March 2023, the ECtHR delivered its judgement on the case J.A. and Others v. Italy, concerning four Tunisian nationals who were rescued by an Italian ship and taken to the Lampedusa hotspot.
The Court ruled that the applicants were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment during their stay in the Lampedusa hotspot, in violation of Article 3 of the Convention. Additionally, it stated that the impossibility for the applicants to lawfully leave the closed area of the hotspot clearly amounts to deprivation of liberty under Article 5 of the Convention, especially considering that the maximum duration of their stay in the crisis centre was not defined by any law and that the regulatory framework did not allow the use of the Lampedusa hotspot as a detention centre for foreigners. The applicants were neither informed of the legal reasons for their deprivation of liberty nor able to challenge the grounds of their de facto detention. Hence, the Court held that Italy violated Article 5 §§ 1, 2 and 4 of the Convention.
The Government, between 2022 and 2023, has tried with difficulty to accelerate the transfers of migrants from Lampedusa, employing ships of the Coast Guard and the Navy, military aircrafts, but also increasing the service of ferries from the island to Sicily.
As previously mentioned, Decree-Law 20/2023 provided that, up to 31 December 2025, the Lampedusa hotspot could be managed by the Italian Red Cross, in derogation from the rules on tendering procedures. This provision became necessary following the continuous mismanagement problems registered in facility.
Conditions in first reception centres
According to the law, first reception centres offer accommodation to asylum seekers for the purpose of completion of operations necessary for the determination of their legal status, and of medical tests for the detection of vulnerabilities, to take into account for a subsequent and more focused placement.
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. 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, religions, or political groups to prevent the rise of tensions and violence.
Law 50/2023, which converts Decree Law 20/2023, adopted by the new Government, provides that within governmental centres and CAS, health care, social assistance and linguistic-cultural mediation will no longer be provided. These new regulations will be followed by a new set of tender schemes specifications for these centres.
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.
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 theoretical. 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.
Bearing in mind that the term CAS simply defines a legal category and not a type of structure, and that consequently there are CAS activated in small apartments, as well as in collective centres of hundreds of places, it can be understood the actual quality of the services and the very nature of the reception in CAS differ greatly.
The chronic emergency state under which the CAS operate has forced the improvisation of interventions and favoured the entry into the reception network of entities lacking the necessary skills or, in the worst cases, only interested in profits.
The functioning of CAS depends on a service contract between the management bodies and the local 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, while the new tender specification scheme is keeping the reception panorama unchanged.
Conditions in SAI
The SAI network is mainly constituted by small facilities and rented apartments, located in – or close to – city centres or, alternatively, well connected to cities through public transport. There, asylum seekers can benefit from first level services, which include the same services guaranteed in first accommodation facilities (CAS and governmental centres): material reception services, health care, social and psychological assistance, linguistic-cultural mediation, Italian language courses, legal orientation and orientation to the territorial services.
Second level services, which include job orientation and professional training, are reserved to beneficiaries of international protection, UAMs and beneficiaries of other forms of protection. (See Content of protection).
The fact that these projects are permanently structured and that the necessary resources are planned in time, and therefore not dependent on a downward bidding process, means that all these services can be promptly provided to those able to access this system, with no delay.
Law 50/2023, which converted Decree Law 20/2023, recently came into force. Asylum seekers have been once more excluded from the possibility to access the SAI system. As such, the reception system will return to a situation in which applicants will only have access to collective government centres and temporary facilities, while the SAI will become a sub-system reserved exclusively to protection holders. Access to the SAI will only be granted to asylum seekers identified as vulnerable and to those who have legally entered Italy through complementary pathways (Government-led resettlements or private sponsored humanitarian admission programs).
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. By the end of 2018, some of these camps had been rapidly evacuated.
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, while also beneficiaries of international protection were forced to abandon the Sprar/Siproimi reception due to the expiry of their project.
The report,  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 16 December 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.
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.  It is estimated that at least 7,000 migrants are now living within informal settlements, within the Capitanata area.
The Government recently allocated 200 million euros from the National Program for Recovery and Resilience (PNRR) to Municipalities particularly affected by the presence of informal settlements (especially in Apulia). This could be a unique opportunity to finally overcome the ghettoization that informal settlements produce; however, problems have already emerged with regard to the effective ability of Municipalities to develop projects in this respect, to the point that there is a concrete risk that these funds will be spent just building new settlements made of housing containers, or not be spent at all.
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 the 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 Metapontum area, Campobello, in Mazara, Castel Volturno (Caserta) and Saluzzo.
The final report “The Bad Season” (La Cattiva Stagione) 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 lot to help around 70 asylum seekers in need of accommodation in 2017.
In Trieste, some beneficiaries of international protection and asylum seekers whose reception conditions were withdrawn, are facing a criminal procedure to have occupied the “Silos area”, a private area behind the train station. From what emerged from the trial, they slept amidst garbage and animals with cardboard huts. In June 2022, the court of Trieste condemned them to two years’ imprisonment plus a fine. An appeal against the decision has been brought before the Court of Appeal of Trieste and is pending at the time of writing.
In Ventimiglia, as reported by Refugees Rights Europe and Progetto 20K, 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 Diaconia Valdese assisted 362 people in April 2021, of whom 29 were women”.
A recent publication showed that at least ten thousand migrants live in informal settlements in Italy, often characterised by marginality, very poor access to services and exploitation. Of these ten thousand people, about 30% are asylum seekers or refugees. Another study documented the socio-health situation of informal settlements of migrants and refugees in the capital city of Rome, underlining how almost all the people assisted by the MEDU NGO indicated having been hosted only at former CARA or CAS centres, often in mega-structures isolated from population centres and lacking services to promote knowledge of rights, and integration into the social fabric. In Rome alone, there are an estimated 2,000 people, including asylum seekers, refugees, holders of international protection and migrants in transit, living in informal settlements.
 See MoI Decree 29 January 2021, Outline of tender documents for the supply of goods and services relating to the management and operation of the centres, attachment 6-bis, available at: https://bit.ly/41b1UAt.
 See La Nuova Calabria, Hotspot di Crotone al collasso, quasi mille migranti in 24 ore e casi di scabbia, 27 October 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/42NebN5. Corriere della Sera, Pasti cotti a Bari e servizi poco igienici: ecco l’hotspot per i migranti a Taranto, 12 January 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3o4I0K3.
 See Il Fatto Quotidiano, Lampedusa, “È emergenza igienico-sanitaria all’hotspot dei migranti”: materassi accatastati, rifiuti e sovraffollamento, 8 July 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3Ij9IcV. Il Post, Nell’hotspot di Lampedusa manca il cibo e ci si riscalda con i falò, 20 February 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3ofOG7Y. La Repubblica, Migranti, nell’hotspot di Lampedusa al collasso: “Sto all’aperto con mio figlio di 4 mesi”, 13 March 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3pOksJR.
 Article 5-bis (2) Decree Law 20/2023 converted with modifications into Law 50/2023.
 Article 9(1) Reception Decree.
 Article 9(4) Reception Decree.
 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.
 Articles 11(2) and 10(1) Reception Decree.
 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: https://cutt.ly/7yONsIR. 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: https://cutt.ly/uyONs8z.
 Article 1-sexies (2 bis, a) DL 416/1989, introduced by DL 130/2020.
 Article 1-sexies (2 bis, b) DL 416/1989.
 MSF, Fuori campo, 2 February 2018, 36.
 Il Giornale, ‘Bari, sgomberati i locali della Ferrhotel occupati da extracomunitari’, 12 October 2018, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/2HBfOGQ; Internazionale ‘A San Ferdinando sgomberata una tendopoli se ne apre un’altra’, 6 March 2019, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/2F2S3EQ; Repubblica, Operazione Moi libero: sgomberate le ultime due palazzine. Salvini: stop a nuove arbitrarie intrusioni, 30 July 2019, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/syONdnk.
 The PNRR is the program with which the Italian Government intends to manage the funds of the Next Generation EU. In other words, it is the instrument of economic recovery and upturn introduced by the European Union to remedy the losses caused by the pandemic. The text of the Italian PNRR is available at: https://tinyurl.com/yk89x3rh.
 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: https://bit.ly/3OR2Ip6, 12.
 Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, National Association of Italian Municipalities, Le condizioni abitative dei migranti che lavorano nel settore agro-alimentare. Prima indagine nazionale, July 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/429bo10.
 For further information on migrants’ informal settlements in Italy, see: Mendola and Busetta, “Health and Living Conditions of Refugees and Asylum-seekers: A Survey of Informal Settlements in Italy.” Refugee Survey Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 4, Oxford UP, Dec. 2018, pp. 477–505, available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/rsq/hdy014. See also: Brovia and Piro, “Ghettos, camps and dormitories. Migrant workers’ living conditions in enclaves of industrial agriculture in Italy”, in Rye and O’Reilly, “International Labour Migration to Europe’s Rural Regions”. Routledge, 2020. See also: Belloni, Fravega, Giudici, “Fuori dall’accoglienza: insediamenti informali di rifugiati tra marginalità e autonomia”, in Politiche Sociali 2/2020, 225-244, DOI: 10.7389/97987. See also: Romeo (ed.), “Abbandoni. Assembramenti umani e spazi urbani: rifugiati e negligenti politiche di accoglienza”, Turin, 2017.