Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. Between August 2012 and July, the government examined 11,068 requests for asylum. During the same period authorities granted approximately 1,600 persons asylum. While the flows of migrants arriving by boat from Greece and Turkey decreased, the number of arrivals originating from East Africa and Syria markedly increased. The Ministry of Interior reported 35,085 arrivals from January 1 through October 14, 26 percent of whom were Syrian and 22 percent Eritrean, the two largest nationalities of arrivals. Site visits as well as credible reports from government organizations and NGOs revealed most Syrian arrivals came by boat from Egypt. NGOs reported on shortcomings in asylum procedures, including inconsistency of standards applied in reception centers, and difficulties in accessing information.
In October a boat carrying primarily Eritrean migrants capsized off the coast of Lampedusa. Reportedly more than 350 persons died, and 156 persons survived, including two suspected smugglers of Tunisian and Somali origin. The situation underscored the dangerous efforts of many migrants from Africa and Asia to reach Europe by sea and invoked the country’s criticism of Europe’s asylum and border security policies.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country is party to the EU’s Dublin III Regulation, whose parties generally transferred asylum applications to the first EU member country in which the applicant arrived.
Between January and May the government repatriated 13,304 migrants, primarily to Tunisia. NGOs reported they did not have prompt access to migrants repatriated to Egypt and Tunisia.
Refoulement: Under normal circumstances the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Some NGOs and international organizations asserted, however, that because of deficiencies in the due process aspects of the terrorism law, the government occasionally deported without due process alien suspects or returned them to countries where they had reason to fear abuse.
On May 31, the government expelled Alma Shalabayeva (the wife of Kazakh dissident and former oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov) and her daughter on the grounds that Shalabayeva’s passport was irregular. The Kazakh Embassy in Rome provided a private aircraft to return them to Kazakhstan. Amnesty International criticized the decision since Shalabayeva was sent to a country where she was allegedly at risk of repression. On July 12, the government of Italy revoked the order of expulsion for Shalabayeva and her daughter, but neither of them returned to the country.
Refugee Abuse: Independent experts and the press noted the following shortcomings of centers that housed mixed migrant populations, including refugees and asylum seekers: deficient health care; isolation; inadequate and overcrowded facilities; and a lack of access to legal counseling and basic education. Representatives of the UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations denounced inhumane living conditions and, in particular, sexual abuse of minors, overcrowding, prolonged periods of detention, and inadequate access to cultural mediators and lawyers. According to the Italian Council of Refugees, asylum seekers lived in poor conditions and rarely had access to counseling and basic education. Authorities sometimes placed asylum seekers in expulsion centers instead of reception centers because of overcrowding stemming from the dramatic increase in arrivals from Syria and East Africa in the summer. Mixed migratory populations often remained in the centers longer than the 35-day limit set by law.
The law allows for increased surveillance and enhanced police powers to gather evidence in terrorism cases, for example, in the collection of DNA from detained migrants for purposes of identifying possible terrorists.
On July 3, an ethnic Kurd died and three other persons were injured in the Bari Palese reception center during a fight between a group of Kurds and a group of Pakistanis and Afghans. On August 19, the government announced the closure of the Isola Capo Rizzuto expulsion center, near Crotone, after a violent protest by migrants damaged it. The protest followed the death of a Moroccan at the center August 10. The Ministry of Interior stated the person died of a stroke, but an investigation into the incident was not concluded. Disturbances were also widely reported in the media in several centers in Rome, Modena, Turin, Gorizia, Catania, and other cities.
In some cases authorities gave asylum seekers a stipend to live outside the facilities. In June the Ministry of Interior sent asylum seekers to a 4,500-bed center jointly run by local authorities and an NGO where asylum seekers could remain up to one year.
Employment: Discrimination against noncitizens in the labor market and the lack of appropriate legal protection against exploitation or abusive working conditions persisted. NGOs and immigrant communities denounced the lack of counseling and training programs that limited refugees’ access to jobs.
Access to Basic Services: NGOs reported that hundreds of legal and illegal foreigners, including asylum seekers and refugees, lived in seven abandoned buildings in Rome and had limited access to public services.
Temporary Protection: In the one-year period from August 2012 through July, the government provided temporary protection to approximately 5,600 migrants who may not qualify as refugees. Statistics for cases of subsidiary protection were not available.