The Report on the Centres for Identification and Expulsion of foreigners (CIE) in Italy compiled by the Human Rights Commission of the Italian Senate shows that prolonging the maximum detention period to 18 months in 2011 (the maximum time allowed under the Return Directive) has not significantly increased the return of people who have received an expulsion order. In fact, in 2013, out of the 6,016 persons retained in a CIE, only 2,749 were expelled, which is just a 2% increase in the repatriation rate compared to 2010, when 3,399 people were returned out of the 7,039 who had spent a period in a CIE during that year. This demonstrates how ineffective CIE are for the purpose of identifying and retuning people, says the Commission. In addition, the Commission underlines that the average time for the identification of a foreigner is 45 days, as this is the time within which consular offices normally respond to queries.

The report highlights that foreigners are deprived of their personal liberty for prolonged periods of time in centres which do not offer any recreational or cultural activity. Most people in these centres are persons awaiting expulsion after serving a prison sentence, persons who have overstayed their visa, foreigners who were born in Italy or arrived in Italy as children who were not able to renew their residence permit, stateless people who did not lodge an application for stateless status, and asylum seekers who lodged an asylum application after being issued an expulsion order. According to the report, the heterogeneity of people detained together and the inadequate standards of treatment often create tensions in these centres. With regard to asylum seekers, the report points out that the fact that people apply for asylum only once they are issued with an expulsion order is a result of the lack of information on the possibility to apply for asylum at their arrival on southern Italian shores.

During visits to the CIE, the Commission noted also the presence of foreigners in a situation of extreme psychological or physical vulnerability. The Commission notes that detention in these centres is detrimental to their condition and should always be avoided.

For these reasons, the Commission urges the Italian Government to adopt measures to make sure that decisions to detain foreigners in these centres are adopted only as an exceptional measure, or at least of last resort, and for expulsion purposes only. The Commission further recommends specific training of personnel involved in return procedures, as well as the possibility for NGOs and organisations providing assistance to migrants to have free access to the centres, as this “constitutes an essential guarantee and appears indispensable in this context”.

Finally, the Commission reports that a draft law providing for a reduction in the maximum time of detention to 90 days, as well as for the interruption of the foreigner’s detention in case there is no reasonable prospect that the expulsion order will be executed, is currently being examined by the Italian parliament.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 3 October 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.