Short overview of the Italian reception system


Country Report: Short overview of the Italian reception system Last updated: 30/11/20


Short overview of the Italian reception system


Decree Law 113/2018, implemented by L 132/2018, has brought drastic changes to the design of the Italian reception system, which under the Reception Decree (LD 142/2015) had articulated reception for asylum seekers in different phases:

  • a phase of first aid and assistance,
  • a first reception phase in governmental centres;
  • and a second-line reception phase.

The 2018 reform transformed the second-line reception system known as System of Protection for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (Sistema di protezione per richiedenti asilo e rifugiati, SPRAR) into the System of Protection for Beneficiaries of Protection and Unaccompanied Minors (Sistema di protezione per titolari di protezione internazionale e minori stranieri non accompagnati, SIPROIMI).[1]

The law now draws a clear division between the reception system for asylum seekers and the one for beneficiaries of international protection (see Content of Protection: Housing). The two reception systems are no longer communicating and became in all respects two parallel systems. SIPROIMI is now available to adults after international protection has been granted. Only unaccompanied children have immediate access to SIPROIMI. Local authorities can also accommodate in SIPROIMI victims of trafficking; domestic violence and particular exploitation; persons issued a residence permit for medical treatment, or natural calamity in the country of origin, or for acts of particular civic value.[2]

Asylum seekers and humanitarian status holders already hosted in the former SPRAR system as of 5 October 2018 were allowed to remain in this accommodation system until the end of their project.[3] The Circular letter issued on 27 December 2018 specified that at a later stage, asylum seekers could only be sent back to CAS or first reception centres.[4]

The principle, which was not largely followed up in 2019, was confirmed with a note of 20 December 2019 sent by the Servizio Centrale of Siproimi to all reception projects expiring on 31 December 2019, even if all the projects had already been extended until June 2020 by the same authority.[5]

The reception system for asylum seekers is now articulated as follows:

  1. First aid and assistance operations that continue to take place in the centres set up in the principal places of disembarkation.[6] First Aid and Reception Centres (CPSA),[7] created in 2006 for the purposes of first aid and identification before persons are transferred to other centres, and now formally operating as Hotspots.[8]


  1. First reception, to be implemented in existing collective centres or in centres to be established by specific Ministerial Decrees.[9] This includes the centres previously known as governmental centres for accommodation of asylum seekers (CARA) and accommodation centres (CDA).

Decree Law 113/2018 has abolished the second-line reception phase for asylum seekers but has not amended the provisions according to which first reception, guaranteed in governmental centres, is planned for the first assistance and aimed at carrying out the necessary operations to define the legal position of the foreigner concerned.[10] Therefore the law seems not to attribute additional targets to the reception system for asylum seekers.

In case of unavailability of places due to a large influx of arrivals, first reception may be implemented in “temporary” structures” (strutture temporanee), also known as Emergency Reception Centres (Centri di accoglienza straordinaria, CAS), established by Prefectures, subject to an assessment of the applicant’s health conditions and potential special needs.[11] When reception is provided in CAS, it is limited to the time strictly necessary for the transfer of the applicant in the first reception centres.[12]

The current reception system for asylum seekers promotes reception in large centres and renders reception in small-scale facilities and apartments economically unsustainable, as discussed below. This ultimately represents an attack on those organisations that have pursued the path of integrated and decentralised reception systems not only for SPRAR but also for CAS. The reform is therefore premised on a logic of security and control and no longer on people’s protection.

Whereas the declared purpose of the reform was to reserve resources for the integration of those who will benefit from international protection,[13] the new system ends up allocating time, energy and public funds to organising just basic assistance for asylum seekers (board and lodging without the access to essential services like Italian classes, legal support, work orientation, psycological assistance), contrary to a logic of protection and considerably slowing down the process of regaining self-sufficiency.


Financing, coordination and monitoring


The overall activities concerning the first reception and the definition of the legal status of the asylum seeker are conducted under the programming and criteria established by both national and regional Working Groups (Tavolo di coordinamento nazionale e tavoli regionali).[14] The Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration of the Ministry of Interior, including through the Prefectures, conducts control and monitoring activities in the reception facilities. To this end, the Prefectures may make use of the municipality’s social services.[15]

With a Decree of 20 November 2018, the Ministry of Interior adopted the tender specifications scheme (capitolato d’appalto) for the supply of goods and services related to CPSA, first reception centres, CAS and CPR.[16] The Capitolato only foresees a basic level of services and drastically reduces funding for the centres (see further Forms and Levels of Material Reception Conditions).

After the former Ministry of Interior’s announcement of 23 July 2018,[17] in 2019 all Prefectures intended to be bound to refer to the auction bases indicated in the tender specifications schemes provided by the MoI to meet accommodation needs in their respective provinces.

In order to tackle the problem of the many calls that went deserted due to the poverty of the offer in terms of funds and services offered, as of 4 February 2020, the new MoI issued a Circular allowing Prefectures to vary minimally the auction bases, substantially with reference to the costs of the surveillance and leases of structures.[18] (See further)

As highlighted by reports[19] and journalistic investigations, the 2018 security decree marked a net change in the reception approach, preferring a system based on big CAS centres, attracting profit companies, such as ORS.[20]

The very low numbers of operators granted by the funds in proportion to the number of guests led to the loss of many jobs[21] and the services’ cut made reception a mere management of food and accommodation, also reducing the positive effects on the host territories, in terms of income and socio-employment integration.[22]

In some cases, the farraginous control mechanisms of Prefectures, responsible for the establishment of CAS centres, have favoured the participation in the reception services of realities connected to underworld and false non-profit organizations, which, according to an investigation now underway, would have falsely attested services never actually performed. These would be contexts related to organized crime.[23]

Despite many announcements, the new government composed by the Democratic Party and the Five Stars Movement has made no changes to the existing situation.


[1]  Article 1-sexies Decree Law 416/1989, implemented by L 39/1990, as amended by Article 12 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.

[2]  Ibid, citing Articles 18, 18-bis, 19(2)(d-bis), 20, 22(12-quater) and 42-bis TUI. The statuses in Articles 20 and 42-bis have been inserted by Decree Law 113/2018.

[3] Article 12(5) and (6) Decree Law 113/2018, implemented by L 132/2018.

[4] Ministry of Interior Circular of 27 December 2018.

[5]   See ASGI, Cessazione delle misure di accoglienza per i titolari di protezione umanitaria accolti in Siproimi dal 1.1.2020 nonché annunciati trasferimenti collettivi dei richiedenti asilo dal Siproimi verso strutture di prima accoglienza. Profili di illegittimità e indicazioni agli enti locali e agli enti attuatori per una corretta attuazione delle norme vigenti ,23 December 2019, available in Italian at:

[6] Article 8(2) Reception Decree.

[7] L 563/1995.

[8] Article 10-ter TUI, inserted by Article 17 Decree Law 13/2017 and L 46/2017.

[9]  Article 9 Reception Decree.

[10] Article 9(1) Reception Decree.

[11] Article 11(1) Reception Decree, as amended by Article 12 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.

[12] Article 11(3) Reception Decree, as amended by Article 12 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.

[13]  Ministry of Interior Circular No 83774/2018 of 18 December 2018.

[14] Article 9(1) Reception Decree.

[15] Article 20(1) Reception Decree.

[16]  According to Article 12 Reception Decree.

[17] Ministry of Interior, Direttiva: Servizi di accoglienza per i richiedenti asilo, 23 July 2018, available in Italian at:

[18] MoI Circular, 4 February 2020, available in Italian at:

[19] Openpolis, Actionaid, Centri d’Italia, La sicurezza dell’esclusione, October 2019, available in Italian at:

[20]  Valori, Dai timori alla realtà: «I centri-migranti sempre più ghetti senza servizi». E a Trieste rispunta ORS, 31 January 2020, available in Italian at:

[21]  Avvenire, Decreto Sicurezza. Accoglienza migranti in crisi, 15mila operatori rischiano il lavoro, 6 May 2019, available in Italian at:

[22]  Valori, Accoglienza migranti: i quattro fallimenti del decreto Sicurezza, 31 July 2019, available in Italian at:

[23]  Repubblica, Parma: Fake Onlus: l'indagine sull'accoglienza dei migranti tocca Parma, 2 July 2019, 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