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Council of Europe | 02.03.2017

Report of the fact-finding mission to Italy
by Ambassador Tomáš Boček,
Special Representative of the Secretary General on migration and refugees,
16-21 October 2016


The Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees carried out a fact-finding mission to Italy from 16 to 21 October 2016, visiting formal and informal facilities for migrants and refugees in Como, Sicily (including Lampedusa) and Rome. He also met with representatives of the government, the authorities dealing with migration-related issues and civil society.

Over 180,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy in 2016, of whom around 25,000 were unaccompanied children (UAMs). Throughout the mission, the goodwill of those engaged in addressing the challenges posed by this influx was apparent. However, the sheer number of new arrivals has put enormous pressure on the authorities. The scarcity of relocation offers from other Council of Europe member states prevents those entering Italy from being able to travel legally to other countries so that their asylum claims can be examined there. On the other hand, effective fingerprinting of all new arrivals means that those who succeed in crossing borders to other European Union member states by illegal means are returned under the Dublin III Regulation. The comparatively low number of economic migrants and failed asylum-seekers who are removed from Italian territory also contributes to the overall saturation of the reception system by encouraging arrivals. Italy cannot be left to cope with these challenges alone: Council of Europe member states must show solidarity by ensuring a fairer distribution of asylum-seekers across Europe.

The number of arrivals has had a negative impact on the system for registering them, and on the Italian reception system as a whole. The procedures at disembarkation do not always guarantee the effective identification of trafficking victims or others who are particularly vulnerable, or the provision of adequate information on rights, particularly when high numbers of refugees and migrants arrive at once. There are insufficient places in appropriate establishments for asylum-seekers and for unaccompanied children. Conditions vary from one facility to another because of a lack of harmonised standards and clear rules, and inadequate monitoring by the authorities. Questions about the legality of certain procurement processes could lead to opportunities for corruption by private operators who end up running the facilities and its services. Conditions in some facilities raise concerns under Articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Resources should be mobilised to improve reception capacity and conditions. Expertise by Council of Europe monitoring bodies (GRETA and GRECO) can be used to provide guidance to tackle problems linked to trafficking and corruption, respectively. The Organisation can also facilitate exchanges of good practice as regards the provision of information.

The shortage of places in reception centres is exacerbated by the slow pace of asylum processes (particularly appeals) and procedures for relocation and family reunification under EU rules. The high concentration of unaccompanied children in certain areas has led to the breakdown of the guardianship system, meaning that the necessary protection and assistance is not provided and young people are left for too long in limbo about their futures. Under-18s are not always provided with adequate educational opportunities, and those who reach the age of 18 are given little support.  Proposals for new legislation on guardianship and judicial reform concerning the processing of asylum claims can be reviewed by Council of Europe experts to ensure their compliance with the Organisation’s human rights standards. Training can also be provided to judges who adjudicate on asylum cases to ensure that decisions are in compliance with the ECHR. The Council of Europe can also offer assistance to improve the educational provision for children and to establish a system of transitional support for older children upon reaching adulthood.

The migrants arriving in Italy are assisted by smugglers who operate highly sophisticated networks across northern Africa and Turkey. While efforts are being made to tackle smuggling, the cross-border nature of the investigations poses particular challenges. Facilitating exchanges of know-how among Council of Europe member states as regards smuggling could assist in the development of best practices.

Accommodation and other assistance services are provided only to asylum-seekers and refugees who are enrolled in the reception system. There is no welfare support available for those outside the reception system. Due to the lack of comprehensive and universal integration policies, even those who have obtained international protection do not have access to resources to build new lives in the community. This has led to a growth of informal settlements, where conditions are basic and prospects are poor. ECRI and other Council of Europe projects can offer useful assistance to national and local authorities on how to put in place effective long-term integration policies.

During the mission, shortcomings in the reception system and the asylum procedures were recognised by the authorities. There was a real determination to improve the treatment of migrants and refugees arriving in Italy. This provides a solid foundation on which to build opportunities for co-operation between the Italian authorities and the Council of Europe in the coming months to tackle together the issues identified.


1. Meetings
2. Visits in situ

1. Capacity
2. Landings and hotspots
a) The disembarkation process
b) Conditions in the hotspots
c) Presence of IGOs and NGOs
d) The legal framework for the hotspots
3. Other reception facilities
c) CAS
4. Access to information
5. Connectivity
6. Lack of monitoring and corruption risks

1. Reception of unaccompanied children
2. Guardianship
3. Age assessment
4. Education and recognition of qualifications
5. Transition to adulthood

1. Asylum applications
2. Relocation
3. Procedures under the Dublin III Regulation
a) Returns to the EU country of first entry
b) Requests to other EU countries to “take charge” for reasons of family reunification
4. Detention and expulsion
5. Channels for legal migration






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