Asylum in Italy
last update: January 2016
1.1. What are your fundamental rights as a migrant and an asylum seeker in Italy and in Europe?
When you arrive in Italy and in Europe, you have fundamental rights that are approved in International, European and Italian laws. Among these rights there are the following ones:
- you have the right not to be returned to a country where you might be subject to persecutions and discriminations based on race, sex, language, nationality, religion, political views, personal or social conditions (according to the "Geneva Convention");
- you have the right to stay in Italy (and therefore not to be expelled) if you are part of a "vulnerable group" (minors, pregnant women, people with disabilities, victims of severe psychological, physical or sexual violences, victims of human trafficking, or if you are a parent of a child younger than six months);
- you have the right of free access to basic medical care and a complete health screening; women, minors and people with physical and/or mental disabilities are entitled to special and free assistance;
- in reception centres you are entitled to have food and water at least three times a day and to be housed in places that are adequately equipped and not overcrowded;
- you have the right to receive essential information on how to apply for asylum and details about the local area where you are staying in your native language or in a language that you understand. You also have the right to know how long you will be in the hosting facility and the possibilities of transport in the area where you live;
- It must be guaranteed that you understand what is written in all documents that are given to you. You have the right to refuse to sign the documents if they are not written or read to you in a language that you understand;
- you have the right to have a written copy of all important documents you receive;
- you have the right to contact,by phone or internet, your family and friends in your home country or in Italy and Europe. You have also the right to have a linguistic mediator with whom you can talk about your situation and who can provide you the information you need;
- you have the right, if necessary, to ask for a lawyer and not to suffer physical and/or verbal violence by the security forces or other people;
- you have the right of “family unity”, that means to be able to always be together with your closest relatives (father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, children);
- If you are a woman or a couple with children, you have the right to stay in specific facilities where you can receive the support and services you need;
- If you are an unaccompanied minor you have the right to stay in a safe place and you are entitled to have a “guardian” (for more information on children's rights and "vulnerable subjects" read section minors);
- you have the right to have legal protection with "gratuito patrocinio" (free of charge legal support).
1.2. Who is an asylum seeker (richiedente asilo)?
According to Italian and European regulations, you can obtain a residence permit through an application for asylum. The asylum request can be made by anyone, at any time.
The applicant for international protection (or asylum seeker) is a person who has made the request and is waiting for the decision on the recognition of refugee status or another form of protection. According to the Geneva Convention of 1951, you can make a request for international protection (protezione internazionale) if you were a victim or if you fear that you will become a victim of violence, persecution, threats and, in general, violations of your fundamental rights in your country of origin for reasons related to ethnicity, religion, nationality, membership of a social group, or because of your political opinions; or if your country is involved in an international armed conflict or internal armed conflict or if there are risks of being condemned, killed or tortured or exposed to inhuman or degrading treatment if you come back to your country of origin.
Please bear in mind that poverty, economic problems and your willingness to find a job in Italy are not valid reasons to ask for international protection.
Once you have formalized your application for asylum, you will be granted a "residence permit for a request for international protection" lasting 6 months. With this permit, you have the right to work after 2
months of continuous stay in Italy. Remember that it is a right for everyone to apply for international protection (political asylum) and you can do so with the "manifestazione di volontà", i.e.saying or writing (in a language you know) that you wish to claim political asylum. When you ask for international protection, you need to explain briefly why you are in danger in your country. Read chapter 5. below.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE EUROPEAN AGENCY "FRONTEX"
Frontex is the European Agency in charge of border control.
The European Union is increasing funding for this agency and many members of Frontex will be sent in the coming months to Italy and especially to Sicily, where there will new kind of centres called “hotspots” where many migrants will be settled. These are new centres where migrants arrived in Italy are likely to be divided into those who will have the chance to ask for international protection (political asylum) and those unable to apply for asylum (or forced to do it only after being detained or after getting the “expulsion paper” ) with the risk to be held, deported or forced to remain in Italy without a regular document. You should be aware that the main purpose of Frontex is not to protect human rights but topatrol and surveil European and non-European maritime and land borders. Under the new European guidelines Frontex members will be increasingly present in the landing sites of migrants (especially in Sicily) and newly arrived migrants will be questioned more frequently to decide whether to consider them as "asylum seekers" or "economic migrants". They also try to understand movements of migration better with those interviews, with the goal to increase border controls and militarisation. Frontex is not there to help you and is not an NGO but a police agency. If you talk to Frontex, remember that they will communicate what you told them to the Italian police and to the police of other European countries.
IMPORTANT! The Italian police and members of the European agencies (such as Frontex and Europol) might ask you some trick questions to qualify you as an "economic migrant" rather than an "asylum seeker". If they ask you, for example: "why did you come to Italy?" and you respond "to work" they prevent you from apply for political asylum. For several weeks, in the places where immigrants arrive, Italian and European authorities have also been using a form which does not clearly state that applying for asylum is possible, whilst the other options are written very clearly (such as "work" and "reunification with family"). First of all remember that you have the option of ask for political asylum and remember to explain and/or write briefly in a language you know (or with the help of a translator) why you cannot go back to your country and your will to apply for international protection.
IMPORTANT! Keep all your personal documents and remember that you have the right to understand all documents that you are given. If you do not understand the documents, you have the right not to sign them; you also have the right to have a copy of all documents for yourself.
1.4 Migrants coming from a "third country” (not their country of origin)
One particular issue concerns people requesting political asylum because they are fleeing dangerous situations in a country that is not their country of origin (such as Libya or Tunisia) called third country” (Paese terzo).
You are entitled to request international protection if there are serious humanitarian reasons, i.e. if you have lived or you are arriving from a country (different from your home country) where an internal or international conflict is going on or has recently ended. In these cases, obtaining a form of international protection is difficult because of the restrictive laws in Italy and Europe in spite of both the European Union (Directive 2001/55/EC) and Italy (article 20 of the “ Testo Unico Immigrazione”) provide for the possibility of issuing a temporary residence permit for humanitarian reasons. Unfortunately, these laws are almost never enforced, so it is likely that while they examine your request for asylum, they will only evaluate the situation in your home country and not in the country where you last lived or travelled through.
1.5 What to do if you are stopped by police in Italy and you would like ask for international protection
If you are stopped by the police and you just arrived, you have to ask immediately what your rights are and ask for an interpreter, giving no regard to any type of question and intimidation, and declare (preferably in English or French) your details (first name/last name/date/place of birth) and that you want to request international protection (or political asylum, asilo politico in Italian language). Please note that your application can NEVER be rejected by the police.
If they prevent you from filing the asylum application, write on a sheet of paper your general information, date and city where you are and, in capital letters, the words: “CHIEDO ASILO” (I ask for asylum) and your signature and then take a picture of this sheet and send it to the associations or to your contacts.
After this declaration you will have to ask to contact a lawyer and a mediator (contact associations in the city where you are now listed here) In any case you have the right to have a public lawyer.
IMPORTANT! Do not respond to provocations by police.
IMPORTANT! When you request international protection/political asylum, you must specify the dangers that are currently in your country (remember that poverty, finding a job and economic or environmental problems are not valid reasons).
3.1 What happens when you arrive?
As soon as you arrive in Italy, the first procedure will usually be to make your ”identification” (identificazione) . The law states: “Every foreign citizen or stateless person who submits an application for issue or renewal of a residence permit, is subject to digital fingerprinting (impronte digitali) and photo-signalling (rilievi fotodattiloscopici) in the offices of the central police station (Questura)”. This means that they take a picture of you, register your personal data (name and surname, place and date of birth) and take your fingerprints. The identification occurs when a migrant applies for asylum, when s/he is stopped by the police for entering Italy without regular documentation, or when s/he is rescued at sea. This can happen when you arrive - by sea or by land - or during your stay in a reception centre.
The official and most frequent registration and identification procedure is the “complete” one, which consists of “photo-signalling” (fotosegnalamento, they take a picture of your face), delivery of an “identification number” and fingerprinting of all of your fingers. According to this procedure, you automatically enter the EURODAC system, the European fingerprints database of those who apply for asylum in the European Union, which is strictly related to the “Dublin Regulation” (read Dublin section).
As an alternative to this ”official” identification procedure, in certain situations and places of arrival in Italy, only an initial “simple” identification takes place. In this case they take a picture of you (“photo-signalling”), create an “identification number” and in some cases they take the fingerprint of your thumb.
ATTENTION! we are not able to tell you where and when you might be identified with using the “simple” procedure: it is a discretionary practice which depends on the time, place and the orders that the police receives as well as on the nationality of the arriving migrants. According to the latest information we have collected, it seems that this type of identification is becoming less and less common.
ATTENTION! It may be the case that the police or the members of European agencies (Frontex and Europol) guarantee and “promise” you that your fingerprints will not be recorded in the EURODAC system, but this does not prevent you from actually being recorded in the EURODAC system.
IMPORTANT! Fingerprinting can not be demanded for children under 14 years.
IMPORTANT! the procedure and times at which the identification occurs can change depending on the time and place where you are located,. We are therefore not able to tell you how and when you will be identified. In any case you must know that the identification procedures can never violate your fundamental human rights, the police are therefore not allowed to force you by using violence and/or threats to take your fingerprints (impronte digitali) or to carry out any other identification procedure, and they cannot deprive you of your freedom for the mere purpose of identification.
A person of any nationality who is accused of committing a crime, and therefore under investigation, has to be identified, if necessary even by photo-signalling or other inspections. Such identification must occur even if the person is accused of having committed a crime which does not result in an immediate arrest (as for example illegal immigration crime called reato di clandestinità.) If the person refuses to be identified (or shows documents which are presumably false), he/she may be forced to go to the police. There, he/she can be detained for identification to take place, but only for a maximum of 12 hours. If the identification is particularly complex, the longest detention time becomes 24 hours, but the person has the right to alert family or a cohabitant (even somebody not from the family). In any case, the police have to report any cases of preventive detention immediately to the Public Prosecutor, making it clear whether the period of detention will be extended to 24 hours. Similarly, the Public Prosecutor must be informed about the release of the person. There is no legal assistance during the identification procedure, but the person has the right to demand that the Public Prosecutor be informed immediately, so that he/she can be certain to be released after the maximum period of 24 hours.
REMEMBER that if you refuse to be photo-signalled by passive resistance - that is without using force or threats - you commit a minor offence called “refusal to inform about one’s identity”. It is an offence which carries a minor penalty (a fine up to 206 euros) and normally without any detention (although the law provides the possibility of detaining the offender for a period of up to one month). For this crime an immediate arrest is never the case. Therefore, if the police use force (such as grabbing arm or hand, pushing, taking off clothing, etc.) against a person who resists passive identification through fingerprinting, photos and collecting personal data, the police are committing crimes called “personal violence” and bodily injury (if any injuries are sustained). In addition, body inspections made against the will of the person or any form of torture and/or physical and psychological injuries are never permitted. Remember that, if you wriggle tying to free yourself, your behaviour could be interpreted by police as “resisting a public official”.
According to the Italian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, any act of physical or psychological violence against a person subjected to restrictions on her/his personal freedom must be punished, and all kinds of inhumane or degrading treatment is forbidden.
In the absence of an explicit law which permits the use of force, any use of force when carrying out identification procedures (rilievi fotodattiloscopici) is strictly prohibited. Therefore, any police officer who ignores this is committing an act of personal violence and bodily injury (if any injuries are sustained). Anyone who is subjected to or is informed about a forced identification that violates the above described rules, can report it to the police or directly to the Prosecutor’s Office.
3.2 Why are you in a reception centre? What are reception centres? How long will you be staying in the reception centre?
Once you are in Italy, all migrants (except those who are not intercepted by the police when arriving by land or by sea or recently some migrants coming through the so-called “Balkn route”) are usually sent to one of the “first reception centres” (centri di prima accoglienza). There will be soon some changes about the number and the type of these centers anyway at the moment (January 2016) there are the following ones :
- CPSA: first aid and reception centres (centri di primo soccorso e accoglienza): these are centres where migrants are received just after having arrived in Italy. These centres usually carry out photo-signalling (see paragraph 3.1) and in some cases they start the application for asylum. According to the law, the maximum stay at a reception centre must be 3 days (72 hours). Now in Italy CPSAs are in Lampedusa, Otranto (Lecce) and Pozzallo (Ragusa).
- CAS: extraordinary reception centres (centri di accoglienza straordinaria): these are another type of reception centre. There is no clear information and regulations about their management, the authorities which own them and about the duration of stay. They are supposed to be temporary recepion centres, but many CAS in Italy have become centres of second reception (so according to when and where these centres are located, they can serve both as “first reception” and “second reception” centres).
- CDA and CARA: reception centres and reception centres for asylum seekers (centri di accoglienza e centri di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo):
according to the Ministry of Interior, “CDAs guarantee initial reception to foreigners found on national territory, for the purposes of identification and for the verification of her/his residence status in Italy. Migrants who are not registered, and who are requesting for international protection, are sent to a reception centre for asylum seekers (CARA). Here, identification can take place and the process of requesting international protection can be initiated. According to the law. By law, the maximum duration of stay in the CDA is a few days, whereas in the CARA, the maximum stay is 35 days. Now the centres (CDA and CARA) in Italy are:Arcevia (Ancona), Castelnuovo di Porto (Rome), Borgo Mezzanone (Foggia), Palese (Bari), Restinco (Brindisi), Don Tonino Bello (Lecce), Località S.Anna (Crotone), Mineo (Catania), Pozzallo (Ragusa), Contrada Pian del Lago (Caltanissetta), Lampedusa, Salina Grande (Trapani), Elmas (Cagliari); to these must be added the CARA in Gradisca d’Isonzo (Gorizia) and Milan, previously used as CIE (see detention-section) and that therefore show typical characteristics of a detention centre.
A few weeks ago, the first “regional hubs” were opened in Agrigento and Bologna, as implemented by the new Italian and European policies (for more information read FACT SHEET n.1). In South Italy there are also additional reception centres, not classified and non-regulated. These centres are often inadequate in size, facilities and location and therefore the migrants accommodated in these buildings have to face many difficulties and inconveniences.
In addition to the CAS also the centres called SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees), are “second grade reception centres”. These are for those who are requesting international protection or for those who have already been granted international protection. These are managed on a territorial level by the local authorities and organisations of the third sector and offer a type of reception which guarantees not only the basic needs but also activities, support and guidance throughout the territory. The problems associated with the Italian reception system mean that the second grade reception does not exclusively happen within these centres (as provided by the law), but is primarily managed by the CAS (see above) that have worse standard and services compared with SPRAR centers.
IMPORTANT: whenever you leave a reception centre (even for a short time), always take the original residence permit with you or, if you do not have it, an official document (the original version) that proves that you are waiting to be issued a residence permit. According to Italian law, if the Italian police undertake an inspection and you do not have the original residence permit (or a similar document), you risk being sentenced to one year in prison and a 2,000 euro fine. Always have with you your declaration of hospitality which was given by the reception centre where you are, this is needed to prove where you are living at the moment.
IMPORTANT: in any centre you are staying in, if you go away without permission you lose the right of reception, but not the right of protection and the right of asylum. If you leave your center you risk, however, not receiving any news about your meeting at the Commission for asylum or other important meetings. If this is the case, always give an address to which they can send you the date of your hearing at the Commission.
Remember that every centre has its own rules and time schedules (in some reception centres for example you must be back at dinner time). You have to follow these rules otherwise you risk to lose your right of reception. It is your right to be informed about the rules of the centre where you are staying in verbal or written form and in a language you understand.
- In addition to these centres, in Italy there are also the CIE, the Centres of identification and expulsion (centri di identificazione ed espulsione), which are centres where, according to the definition by the Ministry of Interior, they can detain “foreigners who have arrived in Italy illegally, those who are not requesting international protection or do not meet the requirements to be granted protection” and aslo those who don't have a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) and have received the “expulsion” or “rejection” decree (decreto di espulsione/respingimento) who, once identified, may be deported. According to the law, the duration of stay is maximum 90 days, or 12 months if the asylum application occurs after the decree of detention. in the CIE.
The CIEs are in: Turin, Rome, Bari, Trapani, Caltanissetta and the two CIE which have just been reopened in Restinco (Brindisi) and Crotone. For more information about the CIEs read section detention.
3.3 Which of my fundamental rights might be violated? Which problems could I have?
First of all remember to read paragraph 1.1 on your fundamental rights.
Based on our experiences and on testimonies of migrants we know, these are the main violations of rights and problems that may occur when you arrive and during your stay at a reception centre.
- lack of information: on your arrival, in almost all cases you are not given the main information about your request for asylum, about where you are and where you will be sent, and about how long you will stay at the reception centre;
- lack of interpreters and socio-cultural mediators: it is your right to be able to communicate in a language you speak or understand and therefore to give and to receive information. However, you might meet people who speak only Italian and who do not have the skills to act as mediators;
- lack of medical assistance and medicines: medical assistance on your arrival and within the reception centres is often inadequate; this situation might occur at any time you need free medical assistance (respiratory problems, burns, wounds, fever, skin diseases, mental disorders, fractures, muscle pains) and sometimes it applies also to people who are particularly vulnerable (pregnant women, children, elderly). Another problem is the lack of medicines that you should have for free and that you cannot buy by yourself since you are not given any money. In some cases you are not even given the prescription to buy the medicines you need;
- Lack of legal support: Although it is your right, frequently you are not given the opportunity to speak to a lawyer who can help you for free during all the stages of your asylum request, as well as if you see your rights violated (see paragraph 1.1);
- inadequate reception conditions: many reception centres are located in buildings that are inadequate as accommodation as, for example, abandoned buildings, barracks, small and overcrowded buildings, old schools, sport centres. These places often become overpopulated, and there is a lack of beds and mattresses, scarcity of showers and toilets, a lack of heating in winter or too hot temperatures in summer. Often the buildings are located far outside the cities and it is hard to get to the nearest towns.
- lack or scarcity of basic necessities (water, food, clothes): particularly in the reception centres in southern Italy (Sicily, Calabria, Campania, Puglia), there may not be enough water and food, as well as clothes (shoes, trousers, shirts, winter clothes).
- lack of other goods and services needed: who is in charge of the reception centre must give you a daily “pocket money” (approximately 2,50 euros), either in cash or shopping vouchers. You are also entitled to some telephone cards (or the money needed to buy them) and, if you are staying at a reception centre for at least 2 or 3 weeks, you also have the right to attend Italian language courses. In some reception centres, it may be the case that you are not guaranteed one or more of these things, even though the institutions that manage the centres have enough money to provide them.
- total or partial restriction of your personal freedom: in some reception centres and CIE, according to Italian laws that are in conflict with International Human Rights conventions and laws and/or following decisions taken by the police and local authorities, you might be prevented from entering or leaving the building. In some reception centres you might be locked inside until the end of your identification procedure;
- physical and/or verbal violence by the police forces or others: various cases of physical and/or verbal violence by the police forces and/or other people towards migrants have been reported; the most frequent cases can be: violence carried out in order to force the migrants to do the identification process through fingerprinting, or physical and/or verbal aggression enacted in cases of protests or specific requests by the migrants. Even without particular violations, the attitude and language used by the police and by those who work for the authorities managing the reception centres are in some cases arrogant, indifferent and/or lacking respect toward the hosted migrants. Verbal aggression and racist acts of various type by extreme right-wing political groups and/or by the residents of cities and areas around the reception centres are also increasing;
- problems with the police offices of Questura and Prefettura: delayed release of permits; lack of information and/or absence of linguistic mediators; you might also be a victim of institutional discrimination (restrictive interpretation of laws, disruption, disrespectful attitude of the staff). In these cases, before you pay a mediator or a lawyer, contact the nearest associations to obtain political and legal support.
3.4 Who is responsible and what can you do in such cases?
These violations of your fundamental rights can be perpetrated either by the national or European police authorities (police, Questura and Prefettura, Carabinieri, Vigili Urbani, Guardia di Finanza, Coast Guard, border police services, members of the European agencies “Frontex” and “Europol” or others), as well as by the staff of the institutions which run the reception centres and the newly established hotspots. In some cases - such as physical and verbal aggression - the person responsible may be a member of an extreme right-wing political group, groups of citizens or individuals living in the area where the reception centres are located. The municipality of the area where the reception centres are located may also be responsible if, for example, they refuse to guarantee support and services they are supposed to offer.
The institutions (cooperative, consortia, associations, etc. ...) who run the reception centres are paid to offer you all the services you have the right to, and with this money it is possible to guarantee a respectable reception for everyone. Remember that the management of the reception and of all aspects related to immigration is in the hands of the Prefectures (local offices of the Ministry of Interior), making agreements with the institutions running the reception centres (except for the SPRAR centres, which are run by the local municipalities).
If you are a victim or a witness of violations of your rights, of discrimination or of situations where the essential services are not guaranteed, it is important that you contact the institutions or associations close to your current location (see here) in order to report what has happened. Report also problems to the staff of the reception centres even if they are not always helpful or informed; remember that whoever works in the reception centres must guarantee all your rights and essential services.
Remember, though, that if you do not have a valid residence permit in Italy, you are committing the crime of illegal immigration. Therefore, if you have to denounce something or somebody, speak to the contacts you find here.
If there are any problems, it is useful to document everything. Therefore, we suggest that you write down, take pictures and film anything that could provide evidence of these problems and violations of your rights. Remember to note the date, time and place and to collect evidence of what happened. If there are more people involved, it is preferable to name a spokesperson and collect all the materials (such as letters, notes, pictures, videos) available.
4.1 You want to apply for asylum in Italy immediately
If you have chosen to stay in the place or region where you are at the moment, go to CHAPTER 5. There you will find all information about the application for international protection. Remember to always check the place and residence centre where you are on the maps available in this guide and/or ask for information. If you need any help find the associations and groups near you under “contacts” in contact section.
Go on below (5.1)
4.2 You want to go to another italian city
We recommend that you look carefully at the Italian map available in this guide. In the contact section you will find groups and associations that can help you and, if you want to, they can put you in touch with your compatriots in the city or region where you are going.
REMEMBER that if you have only been photo-signalled and have not yet filled in the “C3 form in the place where you are located, or where you have been accepted, you can apply for asylum in another Italian city.
IMPORTANT: In Italy - especially for those who want to travel from the South to the North of Italy - it is increasingly easy to fall victim to traffickers and/or their helpers, who ask for very high prices to organise for you to travel by bus, train, taxi or car. When you arrive at the bus or train stations, first check the prices of the tickets carefully.
Now read the living-section.
THE NEW LAW ON INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION
News according to the latest laws concerning arrival and reception of asylum seekers:
- Welcoming measures apply to applicants for international protection in Italy including borders, transit zones and territorial sea zones since the “manifestazione della volontà” to ask for protection (and not by the formalisation of the application – C3);
- The applicant for international protection is entitled to the issue of a residence permit for a period of six months, which is renewable, and after two months (and no longer after six months) s/he has the option of working in Italy;
- To submit an application for international protection, it is no longer necessary to submit documents related to the domicile;
- The applicant for international protection cannot be held just for the purposes of examining the application for asylum;
- An applicant for international protection may only enter into a reception centre if s/he needs initial assistance and if it is necessary to determine his/her legal position. This means that if these two conditions are not given, an applicant for international protection shall be entitled to access the second stage reception directly, in which, in addition to room and board, services aimed at integration into society (legal guidance, job placement, counselling, health and social care, etc) are provided;
- The applicant for international protection is entitled to stay within the Sprar throughout the procedure and, in the event of an appeal, until the end of the appeal;
- The reception can also be in private homes;
- Vulnerable people (minors, unaccompanied minors, disabled people, pregnant women, single parents, victims of trafficking, the seriously ill or those who suffer from mental disorders, victims of torture or serious violence) are entitled to special services within the reception system.
What is new in standards on procedures:
- The applicant for international protection must be heard by the territorial Commission where the reception centre has its seat;
- An application for international protection may be submitted by the parent of a child even if the parent is not the applicant for unaccompanied foreign minors, the child’s guardian may submit the application;
- The applicant for international protection is entitled to receive information about the asylum procedure even at border crossing points;
- The territorial Commission may decide to omit the hearing if the applicant is from one of the countries mentioned by the Commission, which we listed above, and has enough reasons to award subsidiary protection. Once informed, the applicant has three days to decide whether to appear before the Commission;
- The Commission has 6 months to make a decision (and 9 in the event of a mass influx).
- The Commission may examine priority applications submitted by minors or vulnerable people. There is also an accelerated procedure for clearly invalid applications.
5.1 How to apply for international protection (protezione internazionale)
An applicant for political asylum or for international protection is a person who has filed an application and is waiting for a decision regarding refugee status or another form of protection.
An application for international protection (political asylum) can be made by anyone who has suffered from or who is at risk of violence, persecution, threats and, in general, violations of their fundamental rights in their country of origin for reasons of:
- ethnicity (e.g. skin colour or ethnic group membership as well as membership of a tribe/community or a minority);
- religion (e.g. belonging or not belonging to a particular religion or a particular religious group);
- nationality (e.g. belonging to an ethnic or linguistic minority);
- belonging to a social group (group of people who share a common characteristic or who are perceived as a group in society based, e.g., on sex, gender, sexual orientation, family, culture, education, occupation);
- political opinion (e.g. for political opinions, political activities, for political opinions attributed to conscientious objection);
- if your country is involved in an international armed conflict or internal armed conflict;
- if, in case you return to your country, there are risks of being condemned, killed or tortured or exposed to inhuman or degrading treatment that violate your freedom and your dignity.
IMPORTANT! The application for international protection (protezione internazionale) is an individual process (if you are a parent, your application includes your minor children present in Italy). Applications must be made to the border police (polizia di frontiera) when you arrive in Italy by crossing the border by land or sea, or to the Immigration Police (Questura - Ufficio Immigrazione di Polizia) near you if you are already in Italy.
IMPORTANT ! When you ask for international protection you have to explain why you are in danger in your country . In a first moment you don't have to say all the details but only the main reasons why you can't come back to your coutry . REMEMBER that poverty and/or your desire to find a job in Italy are not valid reasons to ask for international protection.
5.2 How, when and where can you apply for international protection?
Remember that EVERYONE can file an application for international protection (political asylum) in every moment through the "manifestazione di volonta", i.e. stating that you wish to ask for political asylum verbally or in writing; You can do this either verbally in your language or in a language you know or in writing.
REMEMBER: from the moment you obtain the permit as asylum seeker until the decision of the Territorial Commission, you are not allowed to leave Italy.
Nobody can prohibit you from applying for international protection because it is a right guaranteed to everyone. There is no deadline for submission of an application for asylum, and your request for international protection cannot be dismissed simply because you have not submitted promptly.
An application for international protection (asylum) is an individual process (if you are a parent, your application includes your minor children present in Italy). Applications must be made to the border police (polizia di frontiera) on arrival in Italy by crossing the border by land or sea, or to the Immigration Police (Ufficio Immigrazione di Polizia) near you if you are already in Italy.
REMEMBER that poverty and/or your desire to find a job in Italy are not valid reasons to ask for international protection.
5.3 What is the procedure to apply for international protection?
According to Italian law, if you entered Italy without a regular Visa, you will need to be identified before applying for asylum.
Usually, when you arrive, there is a police officer who will take a picture of you and take your fingerprints (these procedures are called "fotosegnalamento" and "rilievi dattiloscopici"); please read paragraph 3.1. above.
When you apply for international protection, you receive a document which details the date of your appointment to formalise your application for international protection. This is done by filling out the form "C3" ("form for the recognition of refugee status under the Geneva Convention").
REMEMBER: according to the law, the formalisation of your application must be done within one week from the day you go for the first time to the Immigration Office (Questura). In reality it can take you 3 – 4 months before you are able to formalise your application.
You will be asked for some personal information (name, date and place of birth, nationality, details about family), your documents, your case, your journey from your country to Italy and why you left your country. You can attach to form " C3" a sheet detailing your case and all documents in your possession (e.g. passport, ID card, etc). The police will keep the original version of the C3 form and give you a copy to keep with you.
At the end of this procedure, the police issues a ”attestato nominativo”,meaning that you are waiting for confirmation of asylum seeker status, which is usually released after 30 days. Once form “C3” has been completed and processed, you receive the “permission to request international protection", which lasts for 6 months and with this permit of stay you have the right to work after two months from the issue date.
- When you fill out form " C3", explain clearly and concisely why you are asking for political asylum, i.e. why you left your country, what kind of situation there is in your country, what risks you would face if you had to go back to your country. Then explain these reasons in more detail when you make your case (called "memoria"), which you must present to the Commission which will evaluate your application for asylum;
- immediately after you arrive in Italy, communicate your personal details and your phone number to acquaintances and/or friends with residence in Italy or Europe. If the Commission wants to deport you or you are having any other problems, they can help you to apply for asylum and enforce your rights;
- the waiting time to attend a hearing with the Commission is not clearly defined. It usually ranges from 6 to 12 months and depends on the Commission that will evaluate your application and on the number of applicants who attended hearings with each Committee;
- If someone cannot read and/or write, s/he can inform officials or the police;
- When verbalizing your request, you must give the police your address, where you will be sent all communications relating to your request for international protection. Inform the police whenever you change address;
- Always keep copies of all the documents that you submit to the police headquarters, the Prefecture and the Commission and all the memos that you receive from these authorities.
5.4 What are your rights as an applicant for international protection?
→ What are your rights once you have applied for international protection and have been granted a residence permit for asylum seekers?
- all rights listed at the beginning of this section in paragraph 1.1;
- right to remain on Italian territory until your application has been assessed by the territorial Commission (to which you will have to make your case) and, in case of refusal (e.g. asylum request rejected) until the final decision is taken in response to the application against the refusal;
- right to be admitted to a facility for asylum seekers with accommodation, meals and all the necessary facilities until you meet the Commission that will evaluate your application, and even until the final decision in the event of an appeal against a refusal;
- right to have a sociocultural mediator and/or an interpreter to whom you can speak in your native language about your situation;
- right to contact UNHCR and NGOs and organisations concerned with protection of asylum seekers and migrants in general.- the right to the ”codice fiscale”, which allows you to subscribe to the national health service and have access to health care (register with a general practitioner, attend medical screenings and medical examinations);
- right to work (2 months after the first residence permit has been issued, if you are still waiting for the Committee hearing).
IMPORTANT! While you are waiting for the Commission's decision regarding your application for international protection, you cannot leave Italy.
5.5 How do you prepare your story ("memoria")? Who processes your application for asylum?
Your request for international protection will be evaluated by a specific organ called the ”Commissione Territoriale”, which is usually found in the city or region where you are situated. Therefore, it is very important for you to be well prepared for the hearing. You must try to be as precise and clear as possible.
A lawyer or a social worker at the reception centre where you are staying will help you to write your case (called "memoria") and will send it to the territorial commission.
When preparing your case or ”memoria”, pay attention to these points:
In any event, ask for help with the organisations listed in contacts, because, in some cases, the operators of reception centres do not have the relevant skills and knowledge to help you sufficiently. If you have documents that you think may be relevant to the outcome of the Commission’s hearing (e.g. medical examinations, medical and/or psychological report, documents from your country), bring them with you on the day of the hearing and deliver them to the relevant authorities during the interview.
1) You need to say the country you are from, your citizenship, your place of birth and your address, for how many years you attended school, what you were doing in your country, the composition of your family, if you are married and if you have children; your ethnicity, your religion and your belonging to particular social group or political parties;
2) You need to explain why you left your country and if you were a victim of violence (for example: detention, torture, sexual of physical violence, genital mutilation, threats of obligations made by your partner, your religion or your political party). It is also revelant if one of your relatives was a victim of this kind of violence.
3) You need to explain how you left your country: the countries you crossed during your journey, the means of transport you used, how much money you had to pay, if you were detained, tortured or threatened, if you . It is also important to explain in details why you can't return to your country, if in your country there are laws or habits violating your rights and your freedom and the reasons why you can't ask for help to your family or to the police. Remember to tell if you are still in contact with someone in your country.
For further information read the below and in any event, ask for help with the organisations listed in contacts, because, in some cases, the operators of reception centres do not have the relevant skills and knowledge to help you sufficiently. If you have documents that you think may be relevant to the outcome of the Commission’s hearing (e.g. medical examinations, medical and/or psychological report, documents from your country), bring them with you on the day of the hearing and deliver them to the relevant authorities during the interview.
What are your rights?
- You can ask to postpone the date of the hearing for reasons of health. However, this must be certified by your doctor;
- You can ask to be interviewed by a single member of the Commission or by a member of the same gender;
- You can express yourself in your mother tongue. It is your right to have an interpreter who speaks your native language. If you do not understand the interpreter or if you are having trouble understanding, report it at the beginning of the hearing. The Commission may decide to suspend and to postpone the hearing;
- In the event that you have a physical or psychological problem during the hearing, you are entitled to request assistance from an official.
- what you say during the hearing will be transcribed on a document and at the end of the interview you will be asked to sign the document. Ask for the translation of all that has been written to ensure that everything you said was transcribed correctly.
-If you do not attend a hearing without requesting a postponement, the Commission will make a decision according to the documentation submitted.
-If you are a minor, the Commission conducts your hearing only in the presence of a parent or guardian and may decide not to call you for the hearing and decide on the basis of the documents submitted.
In all the Italian regions, there is a Committee responsible for your application. The police will inform you of the date of the hearing at the relevant ”Commissione Territoriale”.
IMPORTANT! In the decision phase the Commission may require additional documentation. Seek help from officials at the centre to forward those documents to the Commission.
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR CASE AND THE INTERVIEW/HEARING AT THE TERRITORIAL COMMISSION
When applying for international protection (political asylum), you have to prepare your case (also called ”memoria”) which you must then present to the Commission to which you were assigned, and they will then evaluate your application for international protection. In any case, remember that you will be helped by the operators of the centre and by your lawyer. He/she will help you both in preparing your case (or “memoria”) and in preparing the hearing with the Committee.
Below we give you some tips on how to prepare your case in the best way:
1) at the beginning you have to state your home country and your citizenship, your city of birth and your city of residence, years of schooling and education, work and who was your parents, if you have a husband/wife and children; your ethnicity, your religion and if you belong to groups or political parties;
2) then explain why you had to flee and give details about all the violence you suffered and the problems you have had (e.g. prison, torture, violence, abuse, rape, mutilation, female genital mutilation or similar, threats, constraints in choosing a husband and/or wife, religion, etc ...) also if somebody in your family has experienced one of these problems; you have to explain these problems even if the threats or violence or persecution stem from something bad you have done in your home country (such as incidents that caused the death of somebody, culpable homicide, voluntary manslaughter because they belonged to any sect or party ...).
3) then explain how you escaped: the countries you passed through, the transport you used, how much you had to pay, imprisonment, torture and threats that you suffered in countries you travelled through, traffickers and payment for crossing; then you have to specify why you cannot go back to your country, the concrete risks to you, laws and/or practices in your country that violate your rights and your freedom and why you cannot ask the police or family members for help ; remember to specify also if you are still in contact with someone in your home country.
IMPORTANT! Starting from the moment you apply for international protection (political asylum) you must start to try to keep any document, letter, report, certificate that can substantiate what you say, showing that based on your membership of a group, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc., your life and your freedom would be in danger. If you can, send an original letter from a friend or family member who is still in your country of origin. They should attach any document with your name and the letter should say that you cannot return to your country because you are in danger. Explain also the reasons for this danger. (you can also use email and facebook as sources of evidence).
You can have other documents directly in Italy: photographs of signs of torture or injury, medical certificates, medical reports showing that scars and injuries are related to the story you told. If you are religious you can obtain a report by a priest if you are a Christian or by an imam if you are a Muslim.
REMEMBER: it is important that you give the precise place names in your town/village/ (such as names of squares, churches, mosques, mountains, rivers, highways); if you are part of a political party or group, say the names of the leaders, the colours of the coat of arms, etc. ; if you are being persecuted because you are homosexual, say when and how you found out and if there are associations which help you in your country; if you are persecuted because of your religion, the name of an iman, bishop or head; when you talk about specific events (such as massacres, conflicts, crashes, etc ...), remember to give exact dates and locations
5.6 What decision can the Commission take?
By law, the Commission shall decide within three working days. However, it may take several months to hear the final outcome of your application for asylum. . The Commission may decide to:
- recognize you refugee status or subsidiary protection;
- refuse the application for international protection but request that the police grant you a residence permit on humanitarian grounds lasting for 2 years;
- refuse the application for international protection and any other form of protection and an expulsion order from Italian territory within 30 days; in this case, contact a lawyer to submit an appeal;
- refuse the application on the basis that there are no grounds for applying for international protection or that the request has been made for the sole purpose of delaying or preventing an expulsion; even in this case, contact a lawyer to submit an appeal;
- Declare your application invalid, as it was filed and processed in another European country. In this case, the “Dublin agreement” comes into force
5.7 What happens if you are granted the refugee status or the subsidiary protection?
-If the Commission confirms your refugee status, you can obtain a residence permit with a validity of five years, which you can renew at maturity, and a travel document.
-If the Commission confirms your eligibility for subsidiary protection, you can obtain a residence permit with a validity of five years, which you can renew at expiry of the document (after a new evaluation by the territorial Commission). In case you cannot go to the Embassy in your home country, you will be granted permission to travel in the same duration of the residence permit this is also renewable at maturity
- You may be told by the commission to go to the Embassy of your country even when it could be dangerous for you to do so. You have the right to demand the permission to travel without going to your Embassy.
The request for the issuance of a residence permit must be submitted to the police headquarters in your place of residence.
Remember: the police often operate in a discretionary manner and very long waiting times may occur. It is possible that permission will be granted late, that you will not be provided information about the status of your requestor that they will ask you to give additional documentation, which is not required by law (for example the size of your accommodation in square metres, or registration at the land registry).
What are your rights?
- Right of access to employment;
- Right to family reunification: If you have been granted refugee status, it is enough to indicate the relatives with whom you want to reconnect and show documents proving kinship and your family will obtain a residence permit for the same length of time granted on your residence permit; If you have been granted subsidiary protection, you have a right to accommodation and a minimum income;
- Right to health care;
- Right to travel documentation if you obtained refugee status or the right to travel if you have been granted subsidiary protection;
- Right to public education;
- Right to free movement in the European Union without a visa for a maximum period of 3 months;
- Italian citizenship after 5 years of continuous residence in Italy if you obtained refugee status or 10 years of continuous residence in Italy if you obtained subsidiary protection;
- Right to social assistance provided to every Italian citizen: you can obtain a social allowance, the pension for the disabled, esenzione sanitaria (which means you don’t have to pay for medicine), maternity allowance, allowance for household and other aid and services of which you will be informed.
- Right to participate in the tender for public housing;
- Right to be granted a driving licence;
- for those who have obtained refugee status, you can also apply for an extension of refugee status to children and get married in Italy, requesting UNHCR clearance
5.8 What happens if you are granted the humanitarian protection?
If the Commission denies the application for international protection but recommends that the Police grant you a residence permit on humanitarian grounds, you can obtain a residence permit with a validity of two years, which you can renew at expiration after a new evaluation by the Commission. In case you cannot go to the Embassy in your home country, you will be issued permission to travel during the validity of your residence permit. Which is also renewable at maturity.
Your permit of stay for humanitarian reasons can also be converted into a residence permit for work if you are in possession of an identity document (passport or travel document) before the expiry of the permit.
The request for the issuance of a residence permit must be submitted to the police headquarters in your place of residence.
What are my rights?
- Right of access to employment;
- Right to Italian citizenship after 10 years of residence in Italy;
- Right to health care;
- Right to receive a travel permit for foreigners, which can be used if you do not have a passport or if you have a good reason for not contacting your Embassy.
5.9 After obtaining the residence permit can you go to another European country?
If you were granted international protection, subsidiary protection or humanitarian protection, and if you have the electronic residence permit and the document/travel ticket, you have the right to move freely within the territory of the European Union (except Denmark, Great Britain and Ireland) without visas for a maximum period of three months. The three-month period starts from when you are officially registered by the authorities of the State in which you travelled. That may not coincide with the date of entry into the country.
If you have been granted international protection and at least five years have passed from the time you formalised the asylum application, you can request an EU residence permit for long-term residency. If you have this type of residence permit – which has a limited validity – you can stay in another Schengen State for a period longer than 90 days, according to the laws in force in the Member State.
5.10 What if you receive a denial (diniego)?
If your application for international protection is declined and you receive a denial by the territorial Commission, you can contact a lawyer to appeal to the Court. The court which hears your appeal is the one located in the capital of the District of the Court of appeal in which the territorial Commission is established or the SPAR if you are in such a centre. From the date of refusal by the Commission, you have 30 days to file an appeal, upon expiry of which you no longer have the right to stay in Italy legally.
If you are in a “CIE” or “CARA” you have 15 days to file an appeal.
Please refer to the operators of your reception centre or at the organisations close to where you are (see contacts) to find a lawyer to take your appeal. You can ask an Italian State aid called "legal aid" i.e.. the possibility to appeal against the refusal free of charge if you have an income less than approximately 11,000 euro.
2.4. YOU ARRIVED FROM ANOTHER EUROPEAN UNION COUNTRY (“DUBLINATO”)
If this is the case, it means the country you went to sent you back to Italy because that country has proved that the first country in which you arrived was Italy, so according to the Dublin Regulation, Italy has to consider your asylum application. However, there are some exceptions, listed in Dublin section.
IMPORTANT: remember that you can in any case appeal, with the help of a lawyer, to the “discretionary clauses” of the Dublin Regulation. These are the “sovereignty clause” and the “humanitarian clause”. Until your appeal has been examined and a final decision has been taken, you have the right to stay in the country where you wanted to apply for asylum, without being sent back to Italy. Contact the associations or lawyers in the European country where you are at the moment, so that they can help you bring an appeal against your refoulement to Italy. You can find contacts in these countries here.
POSSIBLE NEWS IN ITALY AND EUROPE FROM END OF 2015
The opening of hotspots assures that European asylum Office (EASO), Frontex and Europol give their support to the Member States to speed up the identification, registration and fingerprinting practices of migrants. The main result will be the separation between migrants who will be given the right to ask for international protection (political asylum) and those that will be signed as "economic migrants" and may receive a decree of refoulement/expulsion/retention and therefore cannot apply for international protection. According to the agreements between the European Union and the Italian Government, those "economic migrants" will probably have to stay within the hotspot for a few days before receiving a "respingimento differito" (that is, a refusal sheet that "calls on" migrants to leave the country within 7 days. Everybody who is stopped in the Italian territory with this document will risk ending up in a CIE (identification and expulsion centres).
The plan is to concentrate the arriving migrants in some ports, especially in Sicily, where all procedures should be carried out, such as health screening, pre-identification, recording, photo-Dactyloscopic surveys and signalling. A hotspot has already been opened in Lampedusa and a further three will follow in Pozzallo, Porto Empedocle and Trapani, which will add to those in Augusta and Taranto. After medical screening every person will be interviewed by immigration officials who will fill out the so-called “foglio notizie”, with biographical data, photo, basic information and information on the applicant’s wish to request international protection. Based on these procedures, people will be marked and a photo will be taken of them and they will be identified as CAT2 (illegal entry) except those who will be considered relocatable (CAT1: asylum-seekers) or even those who demonstrate willingness to apply for international protection and therefore, will formalise the intention by completing the form C3, in facilities for asylum seekers (regional hubs), to where they will be transferred after registration. Those belonging to CAT1 will be in a position to be relocated to other EU countries,.They will have to complete, with the support of EASO officials, a specific form C3 in English. Those considered as CAT2 will be transferred, by buses or planes, to centres of identification and expulsion (CIE).
Those countries of origin for which relocations are allowed (i.e. sending from Italy to another EU country that is not chosen directly by the applicant) are currently only Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.) Those replacements are still very few (until December 2015 only 129 asylum seekers have been relocated from Italy).
Those who are not from these countries and choose to ask for protection in Italy will likely be transferred from hotspots to regional hubs (at the moment only those of Genoa and Bologna are active, but soon there should be a hub for each Italian region). Those who refuse the identification and photo-reporting are likely to be imprisoned within the CIE (see FACT SHEET n.4).
Forced returns and bilateral agreements
In 2015 almost 4000 migrants were deported to their countries of origin, deemed not to be entitled to political asylum or to receive humanitarian protection. These deportations often violate migrants’ rights, both in terms of how they are carried out and the risks that the returnees will face in their countries of origin.
European governments, including Italy, have already entered into or will enter into bilateral agreements with some countries of origin of migrants (such as Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria and soon probably Gambia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and maybe others). All these countries – along with others – are or will be regarded as "safe countries" and then migrants from these countries will most likely be denied the possibility of seeking political asylum in Italy and Europe.
NGOs, NATIONAL ASSOCIATIONS, INSTITUTIONS
Here is a list of national and international organisations which usually have a Central Office (often in Rome) and offices/projects/activities in other Italian cities. You can call these contacts for information and to find out whether the organisations have offices, contact persons or carry out activities in the city or region where you are located. For more contacts, especially in the local level please go to the contact section.
HEALTH ASSISTANCE AND HEALTH/SOCIAL ADVICE
Emergency Via Gerolamo Vida 11, Milano phone 02881881 email: email@example.com
MEDU (Medici per i Diritti Umani) - Roma Via dei Zeno, 10 phone 0697844892 mobile 3343929765 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.mediciperidirittiumani.org
MSF (Medici Senza Frontiere) Via Magenta 5 - Roma phone 0688806000 email: email@example.com
INFORMATION AND LEGAL SUPPORT
A-DIF (Associazione Diritti e Frontiere) email: firstname.lastname@example.org facebook: ADIF (for information, legal support);
ASGI (Associazione Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione) email:email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Service against discrimination: email@example.com Phone: 0114369158 / 0432507115; you can find ASGI lawyers in many Italian cities
Associazione Onlus “Avvocato di strada”, Headquarters: Via Malcontenti 3, Bologna phone 051 227143 - email: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find the desk offices of the association “Avvocato di strada”in many Italian tows: Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Bolzano, Catania, Firenze, Genova, Milano, Napoli, Padova, Palermo, Roma, Salerno, Siracusa, Torino, Trieste, Venezia, Verona, Vicenza.
ASYLUM SEEKERS AND REFUGEES
UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Address: via Alberto Caroncini, 19 - 00197 Roma - Phone: 06 80212;
C.I.R. (Italian Refugee Council) Headquarter: Via del Velabro 5/A Roma tel. 0669200114 email:email@example.com. You can find C.I.R. in Catania, Caserta, Salerno, Bologna, Milano, Bergamo, Verona and Gorizia.
SUPPORT TO MINORS
Terre des Hommes Via M. M. Boiardo 6, Milano phone 02 28970418 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Save the Children Via Volturno, 58 Roma phone 064807001 email: email@example.com
OTHER ORGANIZATION/ASSOCIATIONS THAT PROVIDE SERVICES
ARCI: Free number: 800 905 570 - Address: via dei Monti di Pietralata, 16 - 00157 Roma (information, support and advice);
Caritas: Address: via delle Zoccolette, 19 - 00183 Roma Phone: 06 6861554 – 06 6875228 (fist reception, information, other reception services);
Centro Astalli – Servizio dei Gesuiti per i rifugiati in Italia Address: Via degli Astalli, 14, 00186 Roma Phone:06 6781246 / 06 67700306 (for information, legal support for asylum application, health assistance, etc..);