A report by the Swiss Refugee Council (OSAR) finds that beneficiaries of international protection in Italy are in practice unable to take up residence in a municipality other than that of their initial residence, even when the support provided in that particular municipality is not sufficient. Consequently, their right of freedom of movement is hindered and people are not able to access community support services, including health care and are left with no other alternative than living in squats under substandard conditions.

The research shows that destitute people, including homeless refugees who are unable to rent any form of property, cannot register in a new community as their applications are systematically refused. In order for the request to change the place of residence to be successful, the person must provide an address in the new community and the local authorities must confirm that the person does, in fact, reside at the address given.

Without a formal residence, the health insurance card and tax code cannot be issued. Therefore, municipalities and NGOs cannot provide beneficiaries of international protection with access to community support services, except in a limited number of cases: foreign children, pregnant women and women up to six months after giving birth, and people who find themselves in a region, where it is not possible to refer them to the appropriate social services in their region of residence. In addition, without a tax code people are excluded from the legal employment market.

The research follows a Swiss Federal Administrative Court judgment of November 2013 concerning a single mother and her child with refugee status in Italy, who submitted an asylum request in Switzerland. In the judgment, the Court stated that the situation for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in some Italian areas, especially sea arrival points (such as Sicily and Calabria) and big cities such as Rome and Milan is deplorable. However, the court reasoned, where beneficiaries of international protection live in unacceptable living conditions, they could take up residence wherever they choose in Italy based on the right of freedom of movement. Nevertheless, the mother and child are still in Switzerland as their removal has been stayed by a Rule 39 interim measure pending the outcome of the Tarakhel v Switzerland case before the European Court of Human Right on removal of an Afghan family to Italy under the Dublin Regulation.

The report is available in English, French and German.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 26 September 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 26 September 2014.
You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.