É stato pubblicato il rapporto dell’ambasciatore Tomáš Boček, rappresentante speciale del Segretario generale del Consiglio d’Europa per le migrazioni e i rifugiati, basato su una visita effettuata in Italia tra il 16 e il 21 ottobre dello scorso anno.
La pubblicazione del rapporto ha scatenato una serie di articoli giornalistici nei quali l’unico dato che veniva messo in evidenza era costituito dal basso numero di espulsioni effettivamente eseguite dall’Italia verso i paesi di origine, e dunque le inefficienze del sistema dei rimpatri volontari e dei rimpatri forzati a margine dei quali il Rapporteur europeo conclude “mettendo in guardia contro le debolezze del sistema di rimpatri volontari o espulsioni forzate, che rischiano di incoraggiare l’afflusso di un sempre maggior numero di migranti economici irregolari”. In realtà il rapporto contiene una dura accusa contro le condizioni dei centri di accoglienza italiani pur sottolineando la condizione di particolare pressione a cui è sottoposta l’Italia, anche per la mancata Relocation verso gli ltri paesi europei, promessa dall’Unione Europea e non realizzata.
A seconda degli interessi elettoralistici, alcuni rappresentanti politici hanno utilizzato il rapporto per stigmatizzare la scarsa efficacia delle attività di contrasto dell’immigrazione irregolare, e addirittura la crescente presenza di “clandestini” come effetto di questo fallimento, mentre i rappresentanti governativi hanno messo in evidenza come l’Italia abbia ormai fatto “i compiti a casa” e con il nuovo piano Minniti-Orlando, concretizzatosi nel Decreto Legge n.13/2017 pubblicato in Gazzetta Ufficiale il 17 febbraio scorso, dopo la circolare-telegramma del capo della polizia Gabrielli che ordinava retate ed espulsioni su tutto il territorio nazionale, sarebbe l’Unione Europea che non ha rispettato gli impegni presi, non consentendo le rilocazioni di richiedenti asilo che erano previste dalle decisioni adottate dal Consiglio dell’Unione Europea nel settembre del 2015.
Se il numero degli immigrati irregolari oggi presenti in Italia è tanto alto è una conseguenza della mancata apertura di canali legali di ingresso, una sostanziale chiusura confermata adesso dalla recente sentenza della Corte di Giustizia dell’Unione Europea sui visti di ingresso umanitari, che è stata a sua volta strumentalizzata, trasmettendo all’opinione pubblica la falsa informazione che l’Unione Europea, attraverso il suo massimo organo giurisdizionale, avrebbe detto no al riconoscimento della protezione umanitaria a quanti si trovano già nel territorio della stessa Unione. La partita che i media stanno giocano alimentando le paure e criminalizzando i migranti tutti è davvero pesantissime e sta avendo conseguenze devastanti sulla convivenza sociale.
Alla disinformazione di massa prodotta da giornalisti che hanno fatto conoscere soltanto le parti del rapporto che convenivano alla linea editoriale ( ed elettorale) del proprio giornale, si è così sommata una utilizzazione strumentale del documento del Consiglio d’Europa, da non confondere con il Consiglio dell’Unione Europea, che il governo ha sfruttato per legittimare le più recenti scelte repressive nei confronti dei migranti irregolari e dei richiedenti asilo denegati, che appaiono fin d’ora del tutto inadeguate a sveltire i processi ed a contrastare efficacemente la diffusione della condizione di irregolarità. Ma che appaiono all’opposto orientate alla clandestinizzazione di quanti non potranno neppure fare valere i diritti di difesa, ed ottenere uno status legale di soggiorno, a tutto vantaggio delle mafie che sfruttano i lavoratori irregolari e degli intermediari che continuano a favorire i passaggi da un paese all’altro dell’Unione Europea. Particolarmente a rischio la posizione delle donne vittime di tratta e dei minori non accompagnati, come sottolineava un precedente rapporto del gruppo GRETA del Consiglio d’Europa che nessuno ha considerato.
Il rapporto riprende le stesse considerazione già espresse dal gruppo GRETA
SEARCH AND RESCUE AT SEA AND SMUGGLING
The fact that lives are still lost in the central Mediterranean cannot be attributed to any failure on the part of the relevant authorities in Italy: my meetings with the Coast Guard and the Finance Police in Lampedusa confirmed that the dedication to saving lives of those in charge of search and rescue operations and those carrying them out is beyond question. The authorities take an active role in establishing the precise location of the boats and work with other organisations and commercial vessels to ensure the fastest possible rescue of those in danger.
Unfortunately, smugglers exploit the goodwill of the Italian authorities. Vessels launched from Egypt and Libya are now not expected to reach the Italian coast, as was formerly the case. Instead, smugglers send out overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels with a satellite telephone and instructions to call the number of the central Coast Guard office in Rome after a certain period of time, when it is estimated that the boat will be outside territorial waters. Of course the net result of the efforts of the Italian authorities is that there are fewer casualties at sea. What is now required is for smuggling networks to be tackled at their source.
Investigations conducted by the Italian authorities into smuggling are complicated by the fact that there are actors at a number of levels. At the low level are the drivers of the small boats, who are often migrants paying their passage to Europe. At the medium level are those who help migrants to head north once they land in Europe. At the high level – and therefore the key to dismantling smuggling operations – are organised crime networks in Egypt, Libya and Turkey. Because they are based outside Italy, the Italian authorities encounter difficulties in their efforts to investigate. Evidence is obtained from wiretapping and migrants’ statements, and letters rogatory are used to try and enlist the help of the country concerned. However, according to the Italian authorities, this practice has had limited success: Egypt engages with the Italian authorities but refuses to extradite its own nationals so conducts its own criminal proceedings; Turkey does not reply to the letters rogatory; and the political situation in Libya is such that there has to date been no prospect of mutual legal assistance with that country. If smuggling is to be effectively tackled, there must be improvements in mutual legal assistance between Italy on the one hand, and Turkey and North Africa on the other.
Human trafficking is also a concern on the migrant route to and through Italy. Nigerian women are particularly at risk: the IOM operates on the basis that all Nigerian women are potential trafficking victims. GRETA recently conducted a visit to Italy and its conclusions were published at the end of January.
Nessuno evidenzia oggi che l’ultimo rapporto del Consiglio d’Europa conferma quelle critiche ad un sistema paese che produce clandestinità e sfruttamento, a tutto scapito dei soggetti più vulnerabili.
Il linguaggio del rapporto Boček è certo più sfumato di altri rapporti di precedenti Rapporteur del Consiglio d’Europa, forse per effetto degli attacchi che lo stesso Consiglio d’Europa sta ricevendo da parte dei tanti paesi dell’Unione Europea, da ultimo l’Ungheria, che stanno abbattendo tutte le garanzie apprestate in favore di una effettiva tutela dei diritti umani dei migranti. La considerazione positiva della presenza delle ONG nei cd. Hotspot che il Rapporteur ha visitato in poche giornate non corrisponde alla situazione reale e costituisce una grave lacuna del rapporto, malgrado le informazioni sulla situazione negli Hotspot fossero facilmente accessibili, quantomeno al momento della redazione del Rapporto. E sono informazioni che contrastano in modo frontale con le scarne risultanze delle visite nei centri di Pozzallo e Lampedusa. Che l’intasamento della struttura di Contrada Imbriacola a Lampedusa, ed i trattenimenti arbitrari che ne conseguono derivi soltanto dal maltempo è una versione dei fatti rituale che ripetono a memoria le autorità di polizia del luogo ad ogni visita di una commissione di inchiesta.
Seppure con termini molto diplomatici, tuttavia il rapporto critica le prassi amministrative e le scelte politiche adottate dal governo italiano in materia di immigrazione ed asilo, denuncia la crescente illegalità all’interno dei sistemi di accoglienza, affrontando tutte le questioni più importanti e non mette affatto al centro delle richieste rivolte al governo italiano la intensificazione delle operazioni di rimpatrio, come invece avviene regolarmente ad ogni riunione del Consiglio dell’Unione Europea e nei documenti della Commissione Europea e di Frontex. Che adesso non trovano altro da fare che attaccare le organizzazioni umanitarie che salvano vite umane a nord delle coste libiche.
Per completare questo sforzo di chiarezza e di informazione completa, sarà opportuno considerare innanzitutto il Comunicato Stampa che presenta il Rapporto adottato dal Rapporteur del Consiglio d’Europa dopo la sua visita in Italia.
Comunicato stampa – DC-027(2017)
Strasburgo, 08.03.2017 – “L’Italia deve migliorare la capacità di accoglienza del proprio sistema di asilo e le politiche di integrazione, prevenire la tratta di esseri umani e combattere la corruzione nel campo dei servizi collegati all’immigrazione”, sono queste le principali raccomandazioni contenute in un rapporto pubblicato quest’oggi dal Rappresentante speciale del Segretario generale del Consiglio d’Europa per le migrazioni e i rifugiati, l’Ambasciatore Tomáš Boček (versioni inglese e francese).
Il Rappresentante speciale ha inoltre sottolineato la necessità di rafforzare la tutela dei minori rifugiati e migranti, ha esortato le autorità italiane e l’Ue ad accelerare l’esame delle richieste di asilo e delle domande di ricollocazione e di ricongiungimento familiare, mettendo in guardia contro le debolezze del sistema di rimpatri volontari o espulsioni forzate, che rischiano di incoraggiare l’afflusso di un sempre maggior numero di migranti economici irregolari.
L’Italia deve affrontare sfide enormi, poiché nel 2016 è stato raggiunto un nuovo record di sbarchi di rifugiati e di altri migranti che hanno percorso la rotta del Mediterraneo centrale. Sono stati compiuti notevoli sforzi per aumentare e migliorare i centri e i servizi di accoglienza, ma il numero elevato dei migranti giunti in Italia, che nel 2016 ha superato le 180.000 persone, di cui circa 25.000 minori non accompagnati, non ha consentito ai servizi disponibili di far fronte alle domande. Occorre maggiore solidarietà da parte di altri Stati membri del Consiglio d’Europa, per garantire una più equa ripartizione dei richiedenti asilo su tutto il continente e alleggerire il carico attualmente sulle spalle dell’Italia. Il paese dovrebbe essere ugualmente assistito nei suoi sforzi per contrastare le attività dei trafficanti di esseri umani.
Le raccomandazioni espresse nel rapporto mirano ad alleviare la situazione dei rifugiati e degli altri migranti e a proporre azioni concrete su come il Consiglio d’Europa possa assistere l’Italia in questo campo. Il rapporto fornisce inoltre una solida base per creare opportunità di cooperazione nei prossimi mesi per affrontare insieme i problemi individuati.
Il Rappresentante speciale del Segretario generale per le migrazioni e i rifugiati ha effettuato una missione ricognitiva in Italia dal 16 al 21 ottobre 2016, nel corso della quale ha visitato strutture ufficiali e campi informali di accoglienza per migranti e richiedenti asilo in Sicilia, a Lampedusa, a Roma e a Como. Ha inoltre incontrato rappresentanti governativi, altre autorità incaricate delle questioni migratorie ed esponenti della società civile.
Anche il Comunicato stampa diffuso in italiano omette passi importanti del rapporto nelle quali si criticavano le espulsioni eseguite verso paesi che non rispettano i diritti umani, come il Sudan, verso il quale sono stati eseguite espulsioni collettive a partire dal Memorandum d’intesa firmato il 3 agosto 2016, e si criticavano altrettanto chiaramente le defaillance dei diversi sistemi di accoglienza italiani, aggravate dal blocco della “Relocation” e dalle pratiche di respingimenti di polizia alle frontiere francesi, svizzere ed austriache.
Secondo il rapporto pubblicato dal Consiglio d’Europa l’Italia dovrebbe rimediare alle debolezze nel sistema “di rimpatri volontari e nelle espulsioni forzate che rischiano di incoraggiare l’afflusso di un sempre maggior numero di migranti economici irregolari”; meglio leggere l’intero passaggio per intero.
Detention and expulsion
Migrants who do not claim asylum or whose asylum requests have been refused are liable to be removed from the country. An ineffective returns policy in Italy is seen as a weak point of the Italian asylum system: the number of returns from Italy is low relative to the number of arrivals. The ability of the Italian authorities to carry out forced expulsions is hampered by a number of factors. First, Italy has not concluded many readmission agreements.Second, many embassies and consulates do not co-operate and will not provide papers for those who claim to be their citizens. Third, forced expulsion is an expensive process. In practice, therefore, the vast majority of those who do not apply for asylum or whose requests are refused receive a letter requiring them to leave Italy within 7 days. Most have neither the means nor the inclination to leave Italy. As a result, they become part of the informal community of undocumented migrants in Italy or make their way north in the hope of reaching other countries.
Those whom the authorities consider can be forcibly returned to their countries of origin are detained in CIE while identification procedures and other formalities are carried out. Detention is authorised for up to 30 days. It can be prolonged to up to 90 days where there are difficulties in completing the identification procedures. If detainees make an asylum request while in detention, they can be detained for up to 12 months while their request is being assessed. We visited the CIE at Caltanissetta, which can hold up to 96 detainees. At the time of the visit there had been 788 detainees in total in 2016, and 506 returns carried out.
The Italian authorities are taking steps to improve the return rate through the conclusion of a readmission agreement with Pakistan and a memorandum of understanding between the Italian and Sudanese police. The latter has been the subject of particular criticism: as an agreement between police forces rather than an international treaty, it was not submitted for parliamentary scrutiny. The memorandum was swiftly implemented with the return to Sudan of 40 Sudanese nationals towards the end of August. The authorities confirmed that none of the 40 had applied for asylum. Given, however, the speed of their arrest and return as well as the basic details contained in the judicial decision authorising their expulsion, there are legitimate doubts as to whether they were given the necessary information and opportunity to make such applications. Concerns have also been expressed about the collective nature of the expulsion: it appears to have been carried out quickly and while individual removal decisions were handed down in each case, they were in identical terms raising questions as to whether a real individualised assessment of risk had been carried out. This is a matter which requires careful attention in the light of Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 to the ECHR.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also keen to increase the number of assisted voluntary returns, making use of available EU funding. Assisted voluntary returns could provide an effective tool to address the situation of the many economic migrants who arrive in Italy.
Secondo il rapporto occorre migliorare la capacità di accoglienza del sistema di asilo, introducendo “standard aggiornati e universali per tutti i tipi di centri d’accoglienza che indichino cosa deve essere garantito, come minimo, a chi vi soggiorna” e accelerare l’esame delle richieste di asilo e delle domande di ricollocazione e di ricongiungimento familiare; importante il richiamo ad una riforma urgente del Regolamento Dublino III
Procedures under the Dublin III Regulation
Returns to the EU country of first entry
Migrants and refugees travelling northwards seek to leave Italy by one of three border towns: Como (for Switzerland), Ventimiglia (for France) and Brenner (for Austria). Procedures at all three borders have now been tightened and, since the improvement in the fingerprint rate of new arrivals in Italy, those who succeed in crossing the border are liable to be returned under the Dublin III Regulation.
I visited the Italian-Swiss border to assess the situation there. Italy has concluded an agreement with Switzerland which enables the latter to return to Italy under a simplified procedure migrants found in the border area. The agreement does not prohibit the return of children and, in practice, all of those who cross the Swiss border are returned within around 24 hours. At the time of my visit, around 70-100 refugees and migrants a day were being returned to Italy from Switzerland via the border crossing at Como-Ponte Chiasso under the simplified procedure, many for the second or third time. A number of the returnees come from countries eligible to participate in the relocation scheme. Some have international protection status in Italy but have residence permits valid only inside the country. Those who have not made asylum claims in Italy are instructed either to leave the country within 7 days or to attend the police station to make a claim. None of the returnees are given automatic access to reception and they find themselves living on the streets or in transit camps.
The Italian authorities are, of course, equally entitled to return any migrants or refugees first registered in another EU country. However, in practice, few returns take place in this direction, which contributes to the bottleneck in Italy.
It is important that the negotiations on the reform of the Dublin III Regulation which are currently underway result in a workable solution that increases the burden-sharing among states that participate in it. Given the profile of many of those who try to cross Italy’s northern borders, improved relocation procedures and better integration prospects in Italy would also help to prevent secondary movements from Italy to other EU countries.
b) Requests to other EU countries to “take charge” for reasons of family reunification
Family reunification could offer a way for Italy to relieve itself of some of the burden of the high numbers currently in the country by enabling asylum-seekers’ applications to be processed by other EU countries where family members are already lawfully resident. However, the process takes many months. As a result, asylum-seekers prefer to try to cross the border by unlawful means. The capacity of Italy’s Dublin office needs to be strengthened to enable it to deal with cases more quickly.
As with all other legal procedures, unaccompanied children need a guardian before applying for family reunification. This adds significantly to the overall duration of the procedure for them. It is not surprising in these circumstances that children also end up trying to cross borders by illegal means to reunite with their families. Improvements to the guardianship system could reduce this phenomenon.
– intervenire sul sistema europeo di asilo superando il principio secondo cui la domanda deve essere presentata nel paese di arrivo; il ricollocamento dei richiedenti asilo dall’Italia verso altri Paesi richiede troppo tempo e crea ulteriore pressione sul sistema d’accoglienza, oltre a incoraggiare i richiedenti asilo a cercare di entrare illegalmente in altri Paesi;
Secondo il Rapporteur occorre accelerare la redistribuzione dei migranti non solo negli altri paesi dell’Unione europea ma in tutti quelli del Consiglio d’Europa; e questa è una considerazione importante che il governo italiano non ha saputo raccogliere.
Il rapporto sottolinea infine la necessità di migliorare le politiche di integrazione e combattere la corruzione nel campo dei servizi collegati all’immigrazione. Al riguardo si osserva un “Lack of monitoring and corruption risks”
The various reception establishments are run by private organisations which have been awarded management contracts following public tenders. Contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, which does not encourage bidders to base proposals on high standards. Some thought should be given to whether it is appropriate for cost to be the only consideration in awarding contracts. Further, it was widely acknowledged by our interlocutors that contracts are often given at local level according to local politics, and those to whom they are awarded have no experience of running a reception facility. This, together with the absence of comprehensive, harmonised standards in respect of some of the types of facility (as already seen), means that standards of reception vary greatly from one facility to another.
Another factor is the lack of structured monitoring mechanisms. Although the law provides for the monitoring of reception facilities by the competent prefectures, the approach to monitoring remains ad hoc for the time being and no sanctions are applied for non-compliance with contractual terms. I received a copy of a February 2016 report of a monitoring exercise of the Lampedusa hotspot conducted by the Agrigento Prefecture, the UNHCR and the IOM in January 2016. The report itself is comprehensive but it is not clear what has subsequently been done to address the concerns it raises. There has been no follow-up visit to assess the progress made.
The differing standards in reception facilities in Italy is a cause for concern and the failure by the authorities in many areas to supervise the execution of management contracts leaves scope for operators to save money by cutting back on the contracted services. The large sums of money at stake create an obvious incentive for corruption. As a result, the management of reception facilities has become a real opportunity for unscrupulous operators. An ongoing investigation is looking into the likely Mafia involvement in the companies who win the bid and run reception facilities in the South of Italy. There is a need for updated, universal standards for each of the different kinds of reception facility as to what must – as a minimum – be provided to residents. There should also be proper and regular monitoring to ensure that the contracted services are provided as agreed. Sanctions should be applied against operators that fail to comply with the terms of their contracts.
Secondo alcuni passi salienti del rapporto, che i media hanno sottolineato, l’Italia dovrebbe migliorare la capacità di accoglienza del proprio sistema di asilo, prevenire la tratta di esseri umani e rafforzare il sistema di tutela dei minori, affrontando con determinazione la situazione dei minori non accompagnati, che hanno diritto a maggiori tutele e all’educazione. Il rapporto rileva che i sindaci dei luoghi di accoglienza – responsabili per legge della tutela dei minori stranieri non accompagnati – non sempre riescono a far fronte a questo impegno. Si mette bene in evidenza sia il ritardo cronico nella nomina dei tutori che la situazione dei ritardi nelle procedure che poi condizionano la posizione dei minori al compimento della maggiore età. In questa parte vengono recepiti molti rilievi rappresentati dalle organizzazioni non governative e dai rappresentanti degli enti locali incontrati dal Rapporteur nel corso della sua visita.
Reception of unaccompanied children
Over 20,000 unaccompanied children had arrived in Italy by sea in 2016 by the time of my visit. They account for 14 per cent of all sea arrivals. The Ministry of Interior is responsible for establishing first reception centres for unaccompanied children, where they can be accommodated for up to 60 days for identification and age-assessment purposes. Following this period, they should be transferred to SPRAR facilities for children, which are carefully monitored and have to comply with strict standards. In times of high numbers of arrivals, the prefectures may also set up temporary centres for unaccompanied children.
Because municipalities are responsible for all abandoned children within their territories, areas with large numbers of unaccompanied children are confronted with significant challenges in terms of protection, reception and provision of services. The care system for abandoned children in Italy historically caters for young children, who form the majority of local children needing care. Unaccompanied children, on the other hand, tend to be adolescents and have quite different needs and vulnerabilities. While the local authorities receive € 45 per day from the state for each unaccompanied child accommodated, the real daily cost of providing protection and care for them in specialised SPRAR centres for children can easily reach € 120-150. Municipalities have to meet the shortfall. As a result, only a small number offer places for unaccompanied children in SPRAR facilities: there are currently around 2,000 places for under-18s. The cost of providing shelter, protection and services to unaccompanied children could be reduced if the reality of their situation was recognised and the standards which must be met in establishments hosting them updated to reflect that reality.
The shortage of places in second reception facilities means that unaccompanied children are spending over 6 months in first reception facilities. These larger centres are not suitably adapted to their needs. I visited the “Ex Casa Marconi” first reception centre for unaccompanied children in Palermo, where accommodation is provided for up to 120 children. Some activities are arranged and the younger children attend local schools. However, there was palpable frustration among the older boys as regards their lack of progress through the reception system and the absence of any long-term perspective for their futures.
A bill on protection measures for unaccompanied children proposes changes to provisions concerning reception conditions under Law 142/2015. It also provides for the creation of a “cartella sociale” – or social-work file – which would contain information about the child’s background, journey and health and details of assessments already carried out and activities undertaken. The dossier would accompany the child each time he or she was transferred. The bill has recently been approved by the Chamber of Deputies and is currently under examination in the Senate. Once adopted, its swift and effective implementation could go some way to addressing a number of the shortcomings in the current system.
All my interlocutors agreed that the guardianship system in Italy does not work. In principle, the mayor is appointed as guardian for a child in the municipality who does not have anyone to look after him or her, and this includes unaccompanied children. In areas with high numbers of unaccompanied children , the mayor may find himself or herself guardian to over 1,000 children. In practice, he or she often delegates this responsibility to a member of his or her team. But with such high numbers under their care, the appointed guardians are unable to provide the kind of individual attention required. The high number of unaccompanied children arriving in Italy has also led to significant delays in the guardianship process: a guardian should be appointed for unaccompanied children within 24 hours but in practice it takes months. The problem is exacerbated by the shortage of second reception centres across Italy, which would allow for the more even spread of unaccompanied children and the appointment of guardians for fewer children.
Until a guardian is appointed, there is a vacuum in terms of the child’s protection: no-one takes responsibility for progressing him or her through the system. Children need guardians in order to complete administrative procedures, including applications for asylum and requests for relocation and family reunification. The delays in appointing guardians and the latter’s excessive caseload mean that unaccompanied children wait even longer than adults to have their immigration status resolved. This delay encourages unaccompanied children who do not wish to stay in Italy to leave reception and make their own way northwards with the help of smugglers.
To address some of the challenges, several cities are trying to put together lists of potential guardians – to increase the size of the pool – and have prepared protocols on guardianship. Training courses for potential guardians are being rolled out, as are other support programmes aimed at creating links between unaccompanied children and local families. The National Authority for Children and Adolescents is gathering information on different practices across the regions regarding the appointment of guardians; this is a useful exercise and will help to identify more clearly problem areas as well as examples of good practice. The bill on protection measures for unaccompanied children, currently before the Senate, proposes changes to the existing guardianship provisions. In particular, it would establish lists from which private guardians, appropriately trained, would be selected. The Council of Europe could provide useful expertise and assistance with projects to improve the guardianship system, particularly after the entry into force of the new law.
3. Age assessment
Many of the arrivals in Italy are teenagers and it is not always easy to ascertain that they are under 18 years old. The health authorities do a first assessment based on appearance at disembarkation, with “cultural mediators”. If individuals considered to be adults insist they are children, they are taken to the police station for age assessment. This assessment may include a wrist x-ray. Guidelines on age assessment were adopted in April 2016 and the bill on protection measures for unaccompanied children proposes moving away from x-rays towards psychosocial assessments in cases of doubt. This would be a positive development.
4. Education and recognition of qualifications
Children under the age of 16 have both the right and the obligation to attend school, regardless of their immigration status. In hotspots, they are not given access to education: their stay is intended to be of a very short duration so access to local schools is not considered feasible by the authorities. However, as indicated above, in practice unaccompanied children’s stay in hotspots can be of some duration. As regards first reception centres, in provinces where the maximum 60-day stay is generally adhered to, it appears that only simplified educational activities are arranged. However, where it is clear that stays will be of longer durations, proper educational provision is made. In the first reception centre we visited in Palermo, younger children attend local schools while those who are 17 attend adult education centres (Centri provinciali per l’istruzione degli adulti, or “CPIA”). Likewise, once in second reception facilities, children attend local schools. Lack of adequate monitoring of the services offered in the CAS means that it is impossible to know whether appropriate access to education is provided in all of these facilities; management at the CAS I visited in Palermo confirmed that children there attend the local school.
There is also an issue of recognition of qualifications for young people. Learning certificates awarded by some organisations are not currently recognised by others. A more integrated system which enables greater recognition to be given to ad hoc educational arrangements in hotspots and elsewhere could improve access to further education and employment, particularly for older children who are unlikely to have a realistic opportunity to complete a formal education in Italy.
5. Transition to adulthood
When an unaccompanied child turns 18, he or she is transferred from the facility for children to an adult SPRAR facility or CAS for a maximum of six months. A more gentle transition period for those reaching the age of majority could help better prepare them for life ahead. Moreover, for those who have arrived in Italy at 16 or 17 years old, they may not have received sufficient support by the time that they are required to leave reception facilities to ensure their effective integration into Italian society. More attention to transition could reduce the risk that these children find themselves unemployed and without any support network, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation or even radicalisation.
Nessun mezzo di informazione, nè tanto meno i politici fanno riferimento alla condizione dei migranti in transito in Italia, oggetto di analisi da parte del Rapporto del Consiglio d’Europa.
MIGRANTS IN TRANSIT
While the number of asylum applications lodged in Italy is on the increase, a significant proportion of those arriving in Italy by sea still intend to make their way northwards to other European countries. Some of them are adults who have not lodged asylum requests and have received a letter instructing them to leave the country within 7 days. Others are unaccompanied children and asylum-seekers who have left the reception facility to which they were transferred in the hope of reuniting with friends and family more quickly by bypassing the formal system. There is no formal provision of accommodation or support for this group of people, who are reliant on ad hoc arrangements for food and shelter on their journeys. There are large communities of migrants in transit in the big cities and also at border towns.
I visited a camp in Como, at the Swiss border, financed by the prefecture and operated by the Italian Red Cross working with Caritas. The camp was opened on 19 September 2016 to accommodate the high number of migrants and refugees who had, until then, been sleeping rough in and around San Giovanni train station in the hope of making it across the border. The camp has a capacity of 300 and hosted 244 people when I visited, including around 80 unaccompanied children and five families. The decision to open the camp is welcome: the tightening of border controls means that the large majority of those who attempt to cross the Swiss border are swiftly returned to Italy. They now have access to decent accommodation and to assistance to re-enter the formal reception system in Italy.
In Rome, I visited a Red Cross shelter that had initially opened in the summer of 2015 near Tiburtina train station. At the time of my visit, the camp was hosted in a building sequestrated from the mafia which had been offered to the Red Cross by the authorities. Since 1 January 2016 the shelter had welcomed 1,700 people in total. When it first opened, it operated as a transit camp for those who were hoping to reach other EU countries. However, the more stringent fingerprinting policy now being pursued and the effective closure of the borders to the north have led to a change in the nature of the centre: the vast majority of its residents are now Eritreans who are awaiting registration for relocation. It is not supposed to offer accommodation to children. In practice it sometimes does so, in light of the absence of adequate alternative accommodation for them. However, increasing delays in accessing asylum procedures mean that turnover is slow: whereas formerly places were continually being freed up for new arrivals, this is no longer the case. The shelter often has to turn people away.
I also visited the A28 overnight shelter in Rome for unaccompanied children in transit. It opened in 2011 and by the time of my visit had since hosted around 3,500 people. It can welcome up to 30 unaccompanied children at a time and the average stay is around 3-4 days. At the time of my visit, the shelter was set to move to new premises in the suburbs of Rome where it will be able to welcome up to 60 unaccompanied children at a time. However, this will still be insufficient to accommodate unaccompanied children in transit in Rome.
Finally, I visited an informal, open-air camp in a square next to Tiburtina train station, where food and sleeping bags are provided each evening to migrants and refugees in transit by local volunteers. There were no facilities available; volunteers provided small change to enable those who slept there to use the train station’s toilets. Around 120-150 people came to the camp each night. We saw a number of young people, many of whom looked under 18. The location of the camp changes every few days, as the authorities keep moving them on.
Migrants in transit pose a particular problem. The vast majority have been fingerprinted in Italy. Even if they succeed in crossing one of its northern borders they will in all likelihood be returned to Italy before long under the Dublin III Regulation. The reality is that migrants and refugees will continue to travel northwards in the hope of reaching Germany or other northern European countries. From what I witnessed in Como and Rome, this group includes a large number of UAMs let down by the asylum system in Italy and EU rules concerning family reunification and relocation. There needs to be arrangements in place to provide food and shelter for these individuals. As the Red Cross shelters in Como and Rome show, more active engagement with this community could also present an opportunity to provide further information on asylum in Italy, the possibilities of relocation or family reunification or the availability of assisted voluntary returns.
Il rapporto evidenzia infine l’importanza di aprire canali legali di ingressi per lavoro, ma anche di questo i media hanno taciuto ed il governo si è ben guardato dal riprendere questo tema, che invece è essenziale per risolvere la cd. crisi migratoria.
Italy is generous in awarding international protection, especially “humanitarian status”. The use of legal provisions based on humanitarian grounds for economic immigration risks encouraging irregular migrant flows by sea from North Africa. It would be more sensible to put in place legal channels for economic migration, with procedures to be followed in countries of origin, rather than favouring those who enter the country illegally. This could help to prevent economic migrants from undertaking the dangerous journey to Italy.
“Il rapporto si conclude con una serie di considerazioni che riflettono il progressivo smottamento nella tutela dei diritti umani dei migranti in Europa. Manca una denuncia forte, la protezione umanitaria accordata dalle autorità italiane è considerata quasi come un fattore di attrazione per i migranti che fuggono dalla Libia, non si riporta nessuna delle considerazioni sulla situazione dei migrati in Libia che pure i rappresentanti della società civile avevano ben documentato nel corso degli incontri con la delegazione del Rapporteur del Consiglio d’Europa, ma non mancano le proposte che se fossero attuate potrebbero andare ben oltre le misure di stampo esclusivamente repressivo che il governo italiano, sotto la spinta delle autorità europee sta adottando, accrescendo i rischi della esclusione e dello scontro sociale, favorendo le organizzazioni criminali che lucrano sulla criminalità, abbandonando ai loro sfruttatori le vittime di tratta ed i soggetti più vulnerabili. Queste le conclusioni del Rapporto.
I recommend that we:
- issue a call for more relocation offers for asylum-seekers wishing to leave Italy, and particularly for eligible unaccompanied children, either under the EU scheme or from our non-EU member states;
- support the Italian authorities in drafting legislation governing the procedures and practices at the hotspots and CAS, as well as minimum standards for conditions of reception and services in all reception facilities, to ensure compliance with European human-rights standards;
- liaise with other stakeholders with a view to strengthening civil society to ensure that migrants and asylum-seekers are provided with the necessary information on their rights in an appropriate manner;
- advise the Italian authorities on the conclusion of agreements with civil society to ensure their access to migrants and refugees in the hotspots;
- mobilise resources (in particular via the Migrant and Refugee Fund of the CEB) to assist the Italian authorities in building additional capacity to accommodate migrants and refugees, including those in transit, in appropriate conditions;
- increase awareness of the Italian authorities on the possibilities of financing migrant and refugee related infrastructure projects, including housing and education facilities, via loans from the CEB;
- support the Italian authorities in developing the SPRAR network, particularly for unaccompanied children , and promoting local authorities’ involvement therein through the transfer of know-how and exchange of best practices;
- provide guidance to the Italian authorities about the mechanisms that need to be in place to prevent corruption in the context of handling the refugees and migration flow (e.g. situation in and around reception centres, asylum request process, post-asylum measures), also having in mind that GRECO’s 5th evaluation round will cover agencies responsible for border control;
- support the Italian authorities in putting in place mechanisms as envisaged in relevant GRETA recommendations to combat trafficking; provide expertise on how to ensure adequate monitoring and supervision of facilities accommodating migrants and refugees;
- support the Italian authorities in strengthening the asylum and guardianship system for children to ensure the immediate appointment of guardians and swift access to all relevant asylum procedures, in particular though the provision of technical expertise on the implementation of the bill on protection measures for unaccompanied children once it enters into force and the development of alternatives to detention;
- provide expertise on how to improve the educational opportunities offered to children in all reception facilities, including through the provision of additional linguistic and extra-curricular support;
- provide expertise to the Italian authorities in preventing violence against children, ensuring that children are able to report violence and be supported as victims of violence, including sexual violence;
- support the Italian authorities in putting in place a system of transitional support for children who attain the age of 18;
- call on the Italian authorities and the EU (in particular via EASO and Frontex/the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) to increase capacity to deal more effectively with asylum claims, relocation requests, requests for family reunification and voluntary and forced removals;
- support the Italian authorities in reviewing draft legislation on the proposed reform of the asylum procedure to ensure its compliance with the ECHR;
- support the Italian authorities in improving case management so as to ensure that appeals against decisions rejecting asylum claims or decisions to remove migrants from Italian territories are processed without delay;
- support the Italian authorities by providing training to administrative judges and legal professionals to ensure that all asylum and immigration decisions are made in full compliance with the ECHR, including Articles 3 and 13 and Article 4 of Protocol No. 4;
- support the Italian authorities in developing comprehensive integration policies for all asylum-seekers and refugees, regardless of their reception pathway, through the transfer of know-how and sharing of good practices, the promotion of the Intercultural Cities network and the provision of expertise in preparing a National Plan on Integration; such policies should encompass international protection beneficiaries who may have been in the country for many years;
- facilitate the exchange of know-how on tackling smuggling and promote enhanced mutual legal assistance procedures both with the Council of Europe and with north African countries.