Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 31/05/23


Article 17(1) of the Reception Decree establishes that reception is provided taking into account the special needs of the asylum seekers, in particular those of vulnerable persons such as children, unaccompanied children, disabled persons, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, victims of trafficking and genital mutilation, as well as persons affected by serious illness or mental disorders (see Identification).

However, there are no legal provisions on how, when and by whom this assessment should be carried out. The Reception Decree provides that asylum applicants undergo a health check since they enter the first reception centres and in temporary reception structures to assess their health condition and special reception needs.[1] The Decree provides, in theory, that special services addressed to vulnerable people with special needs shall be ensured in first reception centres.[2]

However, in 2018, the reduction of funding and services provided in first reception centres under the 20 November 2018 tender specifications scheme (Capitolato) of the Ministry of Interior and the exclusion of psychologists’ services from eligible costs rendered the effective identification and protection of these categories of people even more precarious.

The reform provided to the accommodation system by Decree Law 130/2020 extends the protection afforded to asylum seekers in first reception facilities by extending the number of services to be provided. This is largely theoretical as the new tender specifications guarantee them only to a minimum extent, thereby not having any positive impact on the situation that arose after the cancellation of these services following the Decree Law 113/2018.

Currently, in case vulnerable people access the SAI system before they are granted a title of protection, they could enjoy some additional services allowed by the Decree 18 November 2019 for disabled persons and persons affected by serious illness or mental disorders.[3]

In February 2023, SAI Central Service reported that there are only 41 projects specialised in the care of forced migrants with mental distress and disabilities, corresponding to 803 places. The number of regions not provided with a dedicated place has grown from 8 to 9 since 2020, with the inclusion of Friuli Venezia Giulia. The others remain: Abruzzo, Basilicata, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Campania, Liguria, Molise, Sardinia, Trentino Alto Adige, Valle d’Aosta and Veneto.[4]

In the light of this data, it appears clear that the Italian reception system is in practice for the most part devoid of services and facilities dedicated, or at least adequate, to the reception of vulnerable people. The limited places available in the SAI network for people with special needs are completely insufficient to meet the needs of an entire national system. On the other hand, the prefectural reception circuit (which welcomes almost 70% of the total) does not have ad hoc facilities, there are no specific services envisioned, nor training requirements of operators, nor is there any provision for enhanced collaboration with the local social and health services. This does not mean that in Italy there are no prefectural reception centres able to take care of vulnerable migrants, but that positive experiences in this regard are very rare and that they have developed only from the good will of the managing entities, without adequate legal or economic support from the competent institutions. The ministerial Guidelines on assistance, rehabilitation and treatment of vulnerable migrants,[5] while constituting a high-quality document and an important reference point, have in fact remained largely not enforced in the reception context, both because no reference is made to them within the Prefectures’ tender specifications, and because, in adopting them, the Government has not provided any additional financial resources.

The law clarifies the need to set up specific spaces within governmental first reception centres where services related to the information, legal counselling, psychological support, and receiving visitors are ensured.[6] Where possible, adult vulnerable people are placed together with other adult family members already present in the reception centres.[7] The manager of reception centres shall inform the Prefecture on the presence of vulnerable applicants for the possible activation of procedural safeguards allowing the presence of supporting personnel during the personal interview.[8]

In Italy, the NGO “Doctors for Human Rights” published a study on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among refugees and asylum applicants. The study concluded that overcrowding, geographical isolation, prolonged stay, length of legal proceedings, as well as episodes of violence particularly in large reception centres, have detrimental effects on asylum seekers’ and refugees’ mental health. In a public appeal, 18 civil society organisations – including MEDU, ASGI, Action Aid, Oxfam, and Refugees Welcome Italia – called for a policy that avoids the use of large reception facilities.[9]

With respect to the accommodation for LGBTQI+ people, from 2018, when there were no dedicated public accommodation projects,[10] the situation only slightly improved. Currently, only a few places in dedicated public projects exist, led by Arcigay and Caleidos, in Modena, and by Quore Association (R.A.R.O. project) based in the Piedmont region.[11]

Another relevant experience is that of the network Rise the difference in Bologna, which launched a pilot project for the creation and management of a reception facility – included among the 2017-2019 former Sprar- Siproimi – dedicated to LGBT asylum seekers and refugees.[12] In late 2022, the Municipality of Rome opened a call for tenders for a pilot SAI project dedicated to the reception of LGBT+ migrants.[13]

As pointed out by legal practitioners, reception workers and lawyers, although LGBTQI sexual orientation is a factor of persecution and can motivate the recognition of international protection, it is often hidden for a long time by asylum seekers who do not feel safe as they fear being discriminated against and attacked by other guests of the centres.[14]


Reception of families and children

The Reception Decree specifies that asylum seekers are accommodated in facilities which ensure the protection of family unity consisting of spouses and first-degree relatives.[15] The management body of the reception centres shall respect the family unity principle. Therefore, they cannot separate children from parents who live in the same wing of the facility. In practice, it may happen that a father is accommodated in a wing for single men and his wife and children in the wing for women. In general, dedicated wings are designed for single parents with children. It may also happen that parents are divided and placed in different centres, and usually the children are accommodated with their mother.

It may happen in first reception centres that families are divided in case the accommodation conditions are deemed not adequate and suitable for children. In these situations, mothers and children are hosted in a facility, and men in another.

Places dedicated to families are very few throughout Italy, both in CAS and within the SAI network. Some Italian regions almost entirely lack reception places suitable for families. This element of fragility of the reception system became even more evident in the 2021-2022 period, first with the arrival of the Afghan evacuees, among whom there were many large families (between 5 and 10 people per nucleus), and then with the people fleeing from Ukraine, among whom there were mainly single-parent households.

While within the SAI projects specific tools and services are in place for households hosted there, this is almost entirely absent in all other types of reception, in the sense that neither the law nor the regulatory provisions, nor do the specifications of services provide for the activation of activities or services dedicated to families as such. This means that any services are activated of their own free will by the NGOs managing the centres, but in the absence of guidelines, quality standards and potentially without the possibility to see the related expenses reimbursed by the Government.

On 3 April 2019, the Court of Cassation clarified that minors are considered accompanied only when they can be considered assisted by a present parent. In any case of family members other than parents, the Juvenile Court must activate the guardianship.[16] Following this decision, Juvenile Courts gave indications to authorities not to directly accommodate minors with relatives other than parents.

Based on NGOs’ experience, no specific or standardised mechanisms are put in place to prevent gender-based violence in reception centres. As a rule, permanent law enforcement personnel are present outside governmental centres with the task of preventing problems and maintaining public order. In practice, the management body of governmental centres divides each family from the others hosted in the centre. Women and men are always separated.


Reception of unaccompanied minors

The Reception Decree states that the best interest of the child has priority in the application of reception measures, in order to ensure living conditions suitable for a child with regard to protection, well-being and development, including social development, in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[17]

In order to evaluate the best interest of the child, the child shall be heard, taking into account their age, the extent of their maturity and personal development, also for the purpose of understanding their past experiences and to assess the risk of being a victim of trafficking, and the possibility of family reunion pursuant to Article 8(2) of the Dublin Regulation, as long as it corresponds to the best interest.[18]

During 2022, more than 28,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in the country (13,000 via disembarkation).[19] The total number of unaccompanied minors hosted in Italy on 31 December 2022 was 20,089, a 65% growth compared to 2021. Such a significant increase is largely attributable to the arrival on the Italian territory of a considerable number of minors from Ukraine, following the outbreak of war in the country in February 2022 and the humanitarian crisis that emerged as a consequence.

Unaccompanied foreign minors are predominantly male (85.1%). With reference to age, 44.4% are 17, 24% are 16, 11.3% are 15 and 20.3% are under 15. As of 31 December 2022, the main countries of origin of unaccompanied minors were Ukraine (5,042 minors), Egypt (4,899), Tunisia (1,800), Albania (1,347) and Pakistan (1,082). Taken together, these five nationalities represent more than 70% of the total figure.

96% were accommodated in reception facilities, while 4% were accommodated in private housing (with families). The majority of unaccompanied children were accommodated in Sicily (19.5%), followed by Lombardy (14.3%), Calabria (10.3 %), Emilia-Romagna (9%).[20] Comparing the share of minors welcomed in the various Italian regions with that relating to 2021 and 2020, a large increase in numbers, throughout the territory is quite evident, especially in Lombardy (+1,678), where presences have quadrupled since the same period in 2021.

Since 2015, the management of the Fund for the reception of unaccompanied minors has been transferred from the Ministry of Labour to the Ministry of Interior.[21] Through the Fund, the Ministry provides, with its own decree, after hearing the Unified Conference, to cover the costs incurred by local authorities for the reception of unaccompanied foreign minors, within the limits of the resources allocated. According to the 2019 budget law, the Fund for the reception of minors has approximately 150 million euros for 2019 and 170 million for 2020 and 2021.

The interventions in favour of unaccompanied foreign minors are also funded by resources from the European Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) 2014-2020.[22] On 17 December 2020 the Ministry of the Interior – Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration published a decree extending 6 AMIF projects until 31 December 2021.[23] On 22 December 2020, the MoI informed that the AMIF fund had authorised the funding of 21 million euros to MoI to strengthen the implementation by local authorities of projects for the reception of unaccompanied minors in the former SIPROIMI (now SAI) network. The maximum cost of the projects is € 68,40 per day per person.[24]


Dedicated facilities for unaccompanied children

Italian legislation provides that for unaccompanied foreign minors, as for unaccompanied minors of Italian citizenship, the main reception response should be the placement in family foster care, while placement in a community should be activated only to the extent that this is not possible. In this regard, national practices have changed considerably with the arrival of minors from Ukraine. While at the end of 2021 only 3% of unaccompanied foreign minors were entrusted to a family and 97% were placed in one of the different kinds of existing communities,[25] on 31 December 2022 70% of the over 20,000 minors present in Italy were placed in reception facilities, while 23% were placed in a private subject. 92% of the children in family care are from Ukraine.[26]

At the end of 2022, there were 1,533 reception facilities hosting unaccompanied children, of these, 136 are dedicated to the first reception and each receives an average of 29 minors, and 1,397 to the second reception, with an average of 7 minors each. The reception facilities are located throughout the country and, in line with the data of the arrivals of minors, while the first reception facilities are more present in Sicily, followed by Lombardy and Emilia Romagna.[27]

Out of the 20,089 accommodated unaccompanied minors at the end of 2022, 10,010 were welcomed in second-line reception facilities (49.8%), which include SIPROIMI-SAI facilities, second-line accommodation facilities funded by AMIF and all second-level structures authorised at regional or municipal level. Another 3,994 (19.9%) were in first reception centres.[28]

During 2022, there were 7,526 voluntary removal of minors from the reception system. The nationalities most represented in the phenomenon of spontaneous abandonment are those of Tunisia, Egypt and Afghanistan. To leave the communities are mainly minors who are placed in the territories close to where they entered Italy. This can be observed through existing statistics, showing that 49% of the abandonments occurred in Friuli-Venezia Giulia and 42% in Sicily (the latter, however, is also a region with the highest number of minors welcomed in absolute terms).[29]

In its 2021 report to Parliament, the Children’s Ombudsman reported pointed out the need to ensure the uniformity of the quality of services provided, through the adoption of guidelines for the national tariff relating to the costs of the services offered by the reception facilities and that relating to the costs of reimbursements paid to the entrusted parties. The current address lines, in fact, only indicated macro-items (e.g. clothes or room rents) to which the regions must adhere, but do not contain any indication with respect to the quantification of the expenditure, not even in terms of average costs of reception.

Another important problem in the reception system has also been pointed out: the classification of residential structures for minors. The lack of a shared name, which makes it possible to clearly identify the organisational and structural peculiarities of residential services, inevitably affects the effectiveness of monitoring activities and the quality of interventions, given the difficulty of finding detailed information on the type of structure in which the minor is placed[30].

Given the recent significant increase of arrivals, whereas the capacity of the child care system has increased only slightly in previous years, public authorities, especially in larger cities, have been struggling to find suitable places to accommodate minors and often lacking financial resources to fund these facilities. In an attempt to cope with this new emergency, the Government launched a number of interventions.

  • The contribution paid by the Ministry of the Interior to Municipalities that host at their expense unaccompanied foreign minors (not within SAI projects) has been increased from a maximum of 45 euros per day to 60 euros per day, for each day of presence of the child. This quantity was also set as an auction basis for the activation of new first reception facilities.[31] This intervention was widely requested and shared with the associations of Municipalities, struggling with the high costs related to the reception of children in specialised communities. The National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) had requested the funding of at least 4,000 additional SAI places for minors, deemed strongly necessary, but the proposal was rejected several times by both the Parliament and the Government.[32]
  • SAI places for unaccompanied foreign minors were increased several times between 2021 and 2022, to reach funding for 2,334 new seats (see next paragraph “SAI”).
  • On 4 August 2022, the Ministry of Interior published a public notice for the submission of projects for the activation of temporary centres functioning as “regional hubs for unaccompanied foreign minors”, for a total of 1,000 new places to be financed through the AMIF fund, starting on 1 January 2023.[33] The list of the 15 projects to be financed was published only in May 2023. It is not yet clear where these centres will be located and which is going to be their capacity. The operating period for these projects has been redefined and will cover the timeframe between 1 July 2023 and 9 January 2026. The activation of regional hubs for unaccompanied minors is an initiative shared with ANCI, aimed at equipping local territories with facilities that can function as bearings that amortise the continuous arrival of minors, giving time to the municipalities to find definitive solutions of reception.[34]
  • Considering that the aforementioned interventions proved insufficient, the Minister of the Interior, in March 2023, urged the Prefects to open new reception structures for minors.[35]
  • The Extraordinary Commissioner for the state of emergency announced on 3 May 2023 that an order will soon be promulgated enabling Prefects to activate temporary structures for unaccompanied minors, with a maximum of 50 places each. Indeed, this possibility is already provided for by law[36] (see the following paragraph First reception centres and CAS for unaccompanied children), which is why it is not clear at the moment what is meant.
  • Lastly, the Government has ordered that the communities authorised or accredited for the reception of unaccompanied minors under 14 can derogate from the parameters of capacity provided by local and national rules, in the maximum extent of 25% of the assigned places.[37]


According to the law, the accommodation of all unaccompanied children shall primarily take place in SAI facilities, regardless of whether they present an application for international protection.[38]

Children reaching adulthood in SAI centres can remain there until a final decision on their asylum application.[39]  Circulars issued by the Ministry of Interior of 27 December 2018 and 3 January 2019 specified that in case the unaccompanied child is granted international protection, he or she could stay in SAI for another 6 months. The same Circulars specified that unaccompanied children who obtained an administrative extension of their placement can remain in second-line reception for the entire duration of the extension. The former SIPROIMI (now SAI) Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Interior with decree of 18 November 2019 regulated the matter in the same way.[40] Decree Law 130/2020 finally authorised the access to SAI for unaccompanied minors who became adults obtaining an administrative extension of their placement.[41]

SAI Guidelines provide additional specific activities and services in favour of unaccompanied minors and in particular the activation of services aimed at promoting family foster care, supporting the paths of autonomy, also by promoting forms of support for housing autonomy in the transition to adulthood, encouraging the connection with the voluntary guardians. It also provides specialised services dedicated to minors with particular vulnerabilities.[42]

As of February 2023, 6,299 places for unaccompanied foreign minors were financed in 214 SAI projects.[43] The number of places dedicated to unaccompanied children within the SAI network of reception projects has been increased in 2021,[44] but still falls short of current needs, given the over 19,000 unaccompanied children currently present in the reception system.[45]

Between March and November 2022, the Children’s Ombudsman, together with UNHCR, UNICEF and the SAI Central Service conducted a series of field visits in several SAI projects, among them Amelia, Aradeo, Bologna, Galatina, Narni, Pescara and Rieti.[46]

First reception centres and CAS for unaccompanied children

For immediate relief and protection purposes unaccompanied children may be accommodated in governmental first reception facilities. The system of first reception outlined by Law 47/2017 and Reception Decree remains substantially unrealized, constituting one of the parts of the legislation with respect to which the reality is further away from legal provisions. The decree of the Ministry of the Interior that should regulate the government structures of first reception for minors accompanied has not been issued so far. Practices regarding the placement of children in these structures is not based on a single system, but on a poorly coordinated set of different types of accommodation, with visible effects of management difficulties for the institutions and an undeniable impact on the predictability and linearity of Child protection and inclusion path.

In the absence of the first government reception centres, this phase is in fact covered by different types of structures: the most similar in standards to the regulatory provision, the centres financed by the Migration and Integration Asylum Fund (AMIF) and centrally managed by the Ministry of the Interior; the extraordinary reception centres set up by the Prefects (c.d. CAS minor) and managed by the Prefectures; family homes and socio-educational communities managed by individual Municipalities; SAI structures that, unlike their natural destination, end up performing a function of first reception.

It should be highlighted that these are separate reception levels, based on institutions of different scope. This causes a difficult and sometimes lacking coordination, as well as a substantial differences in respect for set rules depending on the centre. Moreover, the investment, although large, is not sufficient to accommodate all children. Looking at available data,[47] the percentage of minors that remain in first-reception facilities is too high, which in many cases effectively transforms them into long-term centres, with further problems in terms of planning, placement management and fast transfers of children arriving.

Regarding the quality of reception, alongside efficient reception centres, fruitful collaborations between institutions and non-profit organisations that put boys and girls at the centre, situations are found where minors are placed in an often-inappropriate way, also because of the non-compliance with the quality standards laid down by law. These include structures lacking these standards, where also adults are accommodated (for example hotspots or hotels), with a strong impact on the well-being of minors, their future planning and their rights. In other situations, due to the lack of places in reception facilities, minors are put on a waiting list and remain completely without reception or in precarious accommodation with relatives or compatriots. The sharp increase in the number of unaccompanied minors arriving in Italy is not in fact matched by an adequate increase in the number of places available in facilities for minors, on the other hand there was a reduction in the number of places in AMIF centres.

In its Concluding Observations addressed to the Italian Government in 2019 on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Adolescence, the competent UN Committee had already expressed its concern regarding the “Shortcomings in emergency, first and second-level reception centres for unaccompanied children concerning the age assessment procedure, the lack of adequate information and social activities for children, the length of stay of children in emergency or first-level reception centres, and delays in the appointment of guardians”.[48]

Where implemented, stay in first reception centres cannot exceed 30 days and must last for the strictly necessary time for identification, which must be completed within 10 days. This serves to identify and assess the age of the child and to receive any information on the rights recognised to the child and on the modalities of exercise of such rights, including the right to apply for international protection. Throughout the time in which the child is accommodated in the first reception centre, one or more meetings with an age development psychologist are provided, where necessary, in presence of a cultural mediator, in order to understand the personal condition of the child, the reasons and circumstances of departure from his or her home country and his or her travel, as well as his or her future expectations.[49]

The Ministry of Interior Decree issued on 1 September 2016 has identified the structural requirements and the services ensured in such centres.[50] The Decree states that these centres are located in easily accessible places in order to ensure access to services and social life of the territory and that each structure can accommodate up to a maximum of 30 children.[51]

During 2017 and 2018, the Children’s Ombudsman and UNHCR jointly implemented a programme of visits to emergency, first and second-line reception centres for unaccompanied children.[52] The visits have made it possible to ascertain that the permanence of minors in first reception centres is extended well beyond the deadline of 30 days, and continues in most cases up to the actual completion of age, involving the lack of access to second reception projects. In the first accommodation and identification centre of Rome -CPSA – It has been found that the actual average time of stay is about 10 days, during which children undergoing identification procedures are forbidden from leaving the centres. The visits to some first reception centres found limited conditions of movement for the hosted minors. According to the rules in force in these centres, to protect the potential victims of trafficking, minors could not own cell phones and can leave only in the presence of operators.

As reported by the Children’s Ombudsman, the frequent stay in these first reception centres well beyond the prescribed 30 days often creates feelings of despondency and abandonment among children. This can play an important role in encouraging children to leave the facilities where they are accommodated.[53] The Italian NGO Group for the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC Group) reached the same conclusions and recalled, in its latest report, that “a system of “first reception” de facto so organised, in which the standards of health protection and needs related to minors are unclear, is (…) lacking in the ability to ensure an individualised approach to individual minors and therefore unable to identify and manage particularly vulnerable cases. This results in serious negative effects on the psycho-social health of the individual at a young age, a strong detachment and adherence to the rules both in current events and in the future projection, the increased risks of absconding and therefore the high risk of invisibility, because of the escape from the formal and protective reception systems”.[54]

If even first reception centres are saturated, reception must be temporarily assured by the public authority of the Municipality where the child is located, without prejudice to the possibility of transfer to another Municipality, in accordance with the best interests of the child.[55] According to Article 19(3-bis) of the Reception Decree, in case of mass arrivals of unaccompanied children and unavailability of the dedicated reception centres, the use of CAS to accommodate children is permitted.[56]

Similarly to temporary shelters for adults (see Types of Accommodation), these CAS are established by Prefectures and directly managed by civil society bodies. The law states that each structure may have a maximum capacity of 50 places and may ensure the same services as governmental first reception centres dedicated to children.[57] No maximum time limit for the period of stay in such centres is defined by the law; accommodation is limited to the time “strictly necessary” until the transfer to adequate structures.[58] In any event, these temporary centres cannot host children under the age of 14. The accommodation of children has to be communicated by the manager of the temporary structure to the municipality where the structure is located, for coordination with the services of the territory.[59]

At the end of 2022, first reception centres accommodated 3,994 (19.9% of the total national figure) unaccompanied children. These centres include government centres financed by AMIF, CAS activated by the Prefects, first reception facilities authorised by the municipalities or regions and emergency and provisional centres. Out of these, 5 projects were in Sicily and one in Molise. In total, they offer 275 places for male unaccompanied minors, spread in 13 facilities.

On 25 November 2021, these projects were extended until 31 December 2022 and, following the extension, the financial contribution relating to the 6 active projects was increased.[60]

From 23 August 2016, when AMIF funded facilities were activated, to 31 December 2022, when those facilities have been permanently closed, the total number of unaccompanied minors hosted in such structures was 11,698.[61]

In 2019, the Children’s Ombudsman has critically highlighted the lack of sufficient numbers of centres for unaccompanied children in the border areas, resulting in a lack of adequate response to the needs of unaccompanied children in transit at the northern borders.[62]

The reception of unaccompanied children not transferred to the governmental centres or SAI facilities remains under the responsibility of the city of arrival. The amended Reception Decree states that the interested Municipalities should not have any expenses in charge.[63]

The Ministry of Interior, together with the EUAA, has developed guidelines for the accommodation of unaccompanied minors in first reception centres, with practical information on the procedures to be followed for daily work.[64]

On 4 August 2022, the Ministry of Interior published a public notice for the submission of projects for the activation of temporary centres functioning as “regional hubs for unaccompanied foreign minors”, to be financed through the AMIF fund, starting on 1 January 2023.[65] The list of the 15 projects to be financed was published only in May 2023. It is not yet clear where these centres will be located and how many places they will offer in practice. The operating period for these projects has been redefined and will cover the timeframe between 1 July 2023 and 9 January 2026.


Accommodation with adults and destitution

Unaccompanied children cannot be held or detained in governmental reception centres for adults and CPR.[66]

In 2020, the Public Prosecutor at the Juvenile Court of Trieste sent two directives to authorities in Friuli Venezia Giulia region. They authorised the authorities to no longer carry out the age assessment procedure for those who declare as minors, but are believed to be adults. This had a negative effect on the accommodation of many minors (see sections on Age assessment and Access to the territory, Slovenian border).

As reported by ASGI, three foreign citizens who declared themselves as minors were placed in the CARA of Gradisca from October 2020 to January 2021, in promiscuity with adults, after being identified by the Police as adults, without starting any age assessment procedure. In mid-January 2021, after a legal intervention with the support of ASGI, the three minors were transferred to facilities for unaccompanied minors.

In at least 4 cases where minors were not considered as such and placed in adult facilities, the Juvenile Court of Trieste, recognized the illegitimacy of the practice and sent the procedural documents to the local Juvenile Prosecutor’s Office ordering to activate the procedure for the age assessment of the persons involved.

ASGI also recorded cases where minors were detained in CPRs as adults (see Detention).

On 21 July 2023, the ECtHR condemned Italy in the case Darboe and Camara v. Italy (no. 5797/17).[67]

The Strasbourg judges verified that the Italian authorities unlawfully held that Mr. Darboe was of age, through anachronistic and unreliable age-assessment medical tests, contrary to what was stated by the applicant himself, thus failing to appoint a guardian who could represent him and preventing him from presenting the application for international protection without proper support.

Furthermore, the erroneous age assessment led to his placement in the adult reception centre of Cona, known for its extreme overcrowding, widespread violence and serious sanitation deficiencies, for more than four months. In the light of these findings, the Court considered that the right to respect for Mr. Darboe’s private and family life (Article 8 of the Convention) and the prohibition of being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3 of the Convention) had been violated. The Court specifies that the extreme vulnerability of minors together with their status as asylum seekers are a decisive element to be carefully considered and protected through specific guarantees.

The appeal, brought to the attention of the Court by ASGI lawyers in January 2017, when, after an urgent requested under Article 39 of the Court regulation, the minor was moved to a dedicated facility, was deemed admissible since the Court also found the inexistence, within the Italian legal system, of effective judicial remedies (article 13 of the Convention) to act against the living conditions within reception facilities

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 regarding 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.[68] UNICEF also noted severe crowding and delays identified as risk factors for the most vulnerable.[69] In early May 2023, around 500 unaccompanied minors, locked inside the hotspot, held a demonstration, climbing the roof of the facility and clamouring to be transferred.[70]

ASGI noted that at the Roccella Ionica hotspot, unaccompanied minors are subject to de facto detention, as they are not permitted to leave the facility.[71]




[1] Articles 9(4) and 11(1) Reception Decree.

[2] Article 17(3) Reception Decree.

[3] Article 34 Moi Decree 18 November 2019. According to an analysis from 2020, the places intended for the reception of vulnerable people were by that time insufficient; there were 734 places specialised in accommodation of vulnerable refugees, compared to the 2,000 who, according to the Ministry of the Interior, have been officially diagnosed with a disease. Only 2.3% of these people with severe mental illness are adequately assisted. See Linkiesta, La questione irrisolta dei migranti con disturbi mentali, 23 December 2020, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3eGbVR4; see also Migranti Torino, “La salute mentale nei rifugiati prima, durante e dopo la migrazione”, 15 January 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3w4iinb.

[4] I numeri del SAI, February 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3LJ7xC0.

[5] Linee guida per la programmazione degli interventi di assistenza e riabilitazione nonché per il trattamento dei disturbi psichici dei titolari dello status di rifugiato e dello status di protezione sussidiaria che hanno subito torture, stupri o altre forme gravi di violenza psicologica, fisica o sessuale, adopted with Decree of the Ministry of Health on 3 April 2017, available at: https://t.ly/Wwyp.

[6] Article 9(3) PD 21/2015.

[7] Article 17(5) Reception Decree.

[8] Article 17(7) Reception Decree.

[9] FRA, Migration: Key Fundamental Rights Concerns, Quarterly Bulletin, February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/37WS13N, 17.   

[10] Openmigration, Mille baci: rifugiati LGBTI in Italia tra ostacoli e buone pratiche, 26 July 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/3MHVIcz.

[11] Link to the RARO project led by Quore, available at: https://bit.ly/3vwYzPA.

[12] Link to the project available at: https://bit.ly/3vFf2Qt.

[13] Comune di Roma, Bando SAI, progetto pilota per migranti LGBT+, available at: https://bit.ly/3TCuuZi.

[14] See also: Large movements, Prassi del sistema accoglienza e migranti LGBTQ+, 28 June 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3OqqBDX.

[15] Article 10(1) Reception Decree.

[16] Court of Cassation, 3 April 2019, decision 9199/2019.

[17] Article 18(1) Reception Decree.

[18] Article 18(2) Reception Decree.

[19] For more detailed information on sea arrivals of unaccompanied foreign minors in 2022, see: Save the Children, Hidden in Plain Sight, Migrant children travelling to and through Europe, The South Frontier, 2023, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3K6LF2c.

[20] Ministry of Labour, Monitoring report on unaccompanied foreign minors, 31 December 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3F0xhpf.

[21] 2015 Stability Law (Law 190/2014, Article 1 (181-182).

[22] Chamber of Deputies, Study Service, 19 March 2020, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/myO8ddD.

[23] MOI, available at: https://bit.ly/3fg5x2e.

[24] See: https://bit.ly/3oeJzRb.

[25] See Children’s Ombudsman, 2021 report to Parliament, available at: https://bit.ly/438B0L0 page 184.

[26] Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, Half-yearly review report on unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy, 31 December 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3MybRTs.

[27] For an in-depth analysis of the reception in the regions of Sicily, Apulia, Liguria and Marche, see: Defence for Children and Cespi Report on 2021, Minorenni stranieri non accompagnati, Legge 47/2017, rapid survey on Apulia, Marche, Liguria, Sicily, published on June 2022,  available in Italian at: bit.ly/3li1SI0.

[28] Ibid, 34-35.

[29] Source: Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, Half-yearly review report on unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy, 31 December 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3MybRTs.

[30] See Children’s Ombudsman, 2021 report to Parliament, available at: https://bit.ly/438B0L0.

[31] See Circular letter from the Department of Civil Liberties to Prefects on 19 May 2022.

[32] Source ANCI, Biffoni: “Ingestibile concentrazione minori stranieri non accompagnati in certi Comuni”, 14 April 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/42TlrHg.

[33] The full documentation of the public notice is available at: https://bit.ly/407wg7l.

[34] Source ANCI, Minori stranieri non accompagnati, Anci: Puntare sul doppio canale: hub di primissima accoglienza e rete SAI diffuse su territori”, 3 May 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3oeCGUA.

[35] Source: ANSA, Piantedosi a Prefetti: “Aprire centri per minori migranti”, 23 March 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/42HN8D9.

[36] Article 19 (3-bis) Reception Decree.

[37] See Order of the Chief of Department for Civil Protection no. 994 of 11 May 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/45lRK3e.

[38] Article 19(2) Reception Decree.

[39] Article 12(5-bis) Decree Law 113/2018, as amended by L 132/2018.

[40] Article 38 Moi Decree 18 November 2019.

[41] DL 130/2020, Article 4 (3) b), amending Article 1-sexies (1 bis) DL 416/1989. In 2020 ASGI had underlined that, although the Ministry of Interior had not clarified it, It was not justified a different treatment of unaccompanied children who obtained an administrative extension of their placement but who, due to the unavailability of places in SIPROIMI, had not been included within this system during the minor age, see ASGI, Emergenza covid-19 e percorsi dei minori non accompagnati dopo i 18 anni, 13 March 2020, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/NyO8h6T.

[42] MoI Decree, 18 November 2019, Article 35, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/hyO8jXD.

[43] SAI, I numeri del SAI, February 2023, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3LJ7xC0.

[44] Ministerial Decree no. 19125 of July 1st 2021 funded 51 UFM projects, for a total of 855 new places, via the AMIF Fund. Ministerial Decree no. 23420 of 10 August 2021 funded 44 UFM projects, for a total of 662 new places, via the AMIF Fund. Ministerial Decree no. 23428 of 10 August 2021 funded the enlargement of 37 UFM already existing projects, for a total of 797 new places. Ministerial Decree no. 35936 of 17 November 2021 funded the enlargement of 1 UFM already existing project, for a total of 20 new places. For a comprehensive analysis of the evolution over time of the SAI system for unaccompanied minors, see the report from ANCI-Cittalia, Il Sistema di accoglienza e integrazione e i minori stranieri non accompagnati, 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3HL70MP.

[45] Data as of 31 January 2023, Ministry of Labour report available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/3TwowJB.

[46] See: https://bit.ly/3q0Uz9Q.

[47] Ministry of Labour, Monitoring report on unaccompanied foreign minors, 31 December 2022, available at:   bit.ly/3kol1b5.

[48] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding observations on the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of Italy, CRC/C/ITA/CO/5-6, 28 February 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/41SSN81.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ministry of Interior Decree of 1 September 2016 on the establishment of first reception centres dedicated to unaccompanied minors.

[51] Article 3 Ministry of Interior Decree of 1 September 2016.

[52] Children’s Ombudsman and UNHCR, L’ascolto e la partecipazione dei minori stranieri non accompagnati in Italia, Rapporto finale attività di partecipazione 2017-2018, May 2019, available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/LyO8zDa.

[53] Children’s Ombudsperson, I movimenti dei minori stranieri non accompagnati alle frontiere settentrionali, 29 March 2019, available in Italian at: https://bit.ly/2v2oNt6.

[54] CRC Group, 12° Updated report 2022, Chapter VIII, available at: https://bit.ly/3q0yXKD.

[55] Article 19(3) Reception Decree.

[56] Article 19(3-bis) Reception Decree, citing Article 11.

[57] Article 19 (3–bis) Reception Decree.

[58] Article 19(3-bis) Reception Decree, citing Article 19(2)-(3).

[59] Article 19(3-bis) Reception Decree.

[60] Ministry of Labour, Monitoring report on unaccompanied foreign minors, 31 December 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3EHAlVN; the decree of increase and the extension of the activities published on 25 November 2021 can be consulted at: https://bit.ly/3kypyUJ.

[61] Ministry of Labour, Monitoring report on unaccompanied foreign minors, 31 December 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3LKi3IU.

[62] Children’s Ombudsman, I movimenti dei minori stranieri non accompagnati alle frontiere settentrionali, 29 March 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2v2oNt6.

[63] Article 19(3) Reception Decree, as amended by Article 12 Decree Law 113/2018 and L 132/2018.

[64] MoI Guidelines available in Italian at: https://cutt.ly/2yO8nAN.

[65] The full documentation of the public notice is available at: https://bit.ly/407wg7l.

[66] Article 19(4) Reception Decree.

[67] ECtHR, Darboe and Camara v. Italy, Application No 5797/17, Communicated on 14 February 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/3Z8AtWY.

[68] Save the Children, Hotspot sovraffollato a lampedusa: le condizioni critiche dei minori, 12 April 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/41YgFqV.

[69] UNICEF, Cronache di frontiera. Lampedusa: vite in hotspot, 10 May 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3MfcWiC.

[70] See Repubblica, Protesta dei minori non accompagnati all’hotspot di Lampedusa, 1 May 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3okux0P.

[71] See ASGI, Roccella Ionica: situazione attuale e implementazione “approccio hotspot”, 21 February 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3pXsL65.

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