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. NGOs and independent observers identified difficulties in asylum procedures, including inconsistency of standards applied in reception centers and insufficient rates of referral of trafficking victims and unaccompanied minors to adequate services.
During the year large numbers of migrants and refugees arrived in the country, mostly across the central Mediterranean Sea from Libya, overwhelming the asylum system. Between January and September, the government received 95,419 asylum requests and granted asylum or other forms of legal protection to 15,500 persons.
Between January 1 and December 1, a total of 15,540 unaccompanied minors arrived in the country (see section 6, Children and section 7.c.).
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country is party to the EU’s Dublin III Regulation and its subsequent revisions, whereby members generally transferred asylum applications to the first EU member country in which the applicant arrived or returned applicants to safe countries of origin.
Freedom of Movement: The law permits authorities to detain migrants and asylum seekers in centers for identification and expulsion for up to 90 days if authorities decide they pose a threat to public order or may try to flee an expulsion order or pre-expulsion jail sentence. In 2015 approximately 400 foreigners were held in nine centers; more than 25 percent of these requested asylum.
Employment: Asylum seekers may work legally two months after submitting an asylum request. Employers continued to discriminate against noncitizens in the labor market, taking advantage of insufficient enforcement of legal protection for noncitizens against exploitation. In addition, high unemployment limited the possibility of legal employment for large numbers of refugees.
Access to Basic Services: Authorities set up temporary centers to house mixed-migrant populations, including refugees and asylum seekers, but could not keep pace with the high number of arrivals and the increased number of asylum claims. The government’s system of reception centers and shelters for asylum seekers continued to be stretched beyond capacity. In December an estimated 201,000 persons were housed in sites throughout the country. A small percentage were housed in centers run directly by local authorities, generally considered of high quality, while the rest were in centers whose quality varied greatly and included many repurposed facilities, such as old schools, military barracks, and apartments in residential buildings. Representatives of UNHCR, the IOM, and other humanitarian organizations and NGOs reported thousands of legal and irregular foreigners, including migrants and refugees, living in abandoned buildings and in inadequate and overcrowded facilities in Rome and other major cities and having limited access to health care, legal counseling, basic education, and other public services.
In some instances, refugees and asylum seekers who worked in the informal economy were not able to rent apartments, especially in large cities. They often squatted in buildings where they lived in substandard conditions with their children. On August 19 and 24, police forcibly evicted hundreds of migrants and refugees who had squatted in a building in the center of Rome. AI, Human Rights Watch, and other NGOs alleged that the Rome municipal government failed to provide alternative public housing to those in the group who qualified for it, including minors and refugees with legal status.
Durable Solutions: The government made limited attempts to integrate refugees into the country’s society with mixed results. The government distributed asylum seekers throughout the country and provided shelter and services while their requests were processed as well as some resettlement services after granting asylum. In cooperation with the IOM, the government assisted migrants and refugees who opted to return to their home countries. Regional adjudication committees took from six to 15 months to process asylum claims, depending on the region. When legal appeals were taken into account, the process could last up to two years.
Temporary Protection: The government also provided protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. Between January and June 30, the government provided humanitarian protection to 8,957 persons and subsidiary protection to 3,243 persons.