20 November 2015

Civil society organisations in Italy are expressing strong concerns over practices at the ‘hotspots’: return decisions being issued without a proper examination of the individual cases, chaotic and unprecise approaches to the identification of people, unaccompanied minors wrongly identified as adults and a general lack of protection safeguards and guarantees for migrants and refugees.

According to news reports in the country, civil society organisations, including UNHCR, do not have access to refugees and migrants until after the initial police screening, a fact that raises concerns about a lack of information on asylum procedures for new arrivals, a right guaranteed under the EU recast Asylum Procedures Directive.

There are documented cases of unaccompanied minors from Gambia and Senegal identified as adults: because they lack documentation, they have all been assigned the fake date of birth of 1 January 1997, which makes them adults and therefore potentially subject to a return decision. MSF Italy has documented, since 24 September 2015, over 100 cases of people rescued at sea and being handed an expulsion decision shortly thereafter, even when in clear need of medical attention.

At least 15 people from Mali and Pakistan have been found last week outside the police station (questura) in Palermo: they had their protection claims denied because they had already been subject to an expulsion order. The return decision was handed to them after being asked for their personal data on arrival from their sea passage. According to their statements, they were not informed about the asylum procedure.

The Italian Asylum Round Table (Tavolo Nazionale Asilo), composed by many civil society organisations including ECRE members ASGI and CIR, sent a meeting request to the Interior Ministry to clarify the practices taking place at the hotspots, which – they highlight – have no juridical basis in national law. They are particularly concerned about the lack of information on asylum and the limitation of the international protection procedure to certain nationalities. The request has so far not been replied to.  

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 20 November 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.