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Practical guide: access to the asylum procedure

As soon as you arrive in Italy, the first procedure will usually be to make your identification (identificazione): the police take a picture of you, register your personal data (name and surname, place and date of birth) and take your fingerprints (impronte digitali). The identification occurs when a migrant applies for asylum, when s/he is stopped by the police when entering Italy without regular documentation, or when s/he is rescued at sea. They can identify you when you arrive – by sea or by land – or during your stay in a reception centre.

The new decree-law provides that the repeated refusal to undergo fingerprinting constitutes a risk of absconding and legitimises detention in a CPR (a return center where you can be held in administrative detention).

Once arrived in Italy, you are sent to one of these centers:

HOTSPOTS/CPSA From 2016 the Italian Government stated that some CPSA are used as “hotspots”. The law does not provide a clear legal framework which procedures are implemented in those centres and, even if the period of stay should be as short as possible, in practice you could be detained there for many days or weeks. Currently there are 4 hotspots opened – Lampedusa, Pozzallo, Trapani and Taranto.
According to what is stated in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) of the Italian Government the main steps would be: rescue and disembarking operations, health screening, transfer to the hotspots, security checks on the basis of local conditions, delivering paper-based information, pre-identification (photo ID and use of identification bracelets), delivering information on current legislation on immigration and asylum, identification, photo-signaling and controls of databases (as EURODAC), reception in the hotspots and medical controls, de-briefing made by Frontex (in different phases) and transfer to a secondary reception centre (as regional hub, temporary structures etc.).

IMPORTANT Inside the hotspots you cannot formalize your asylum application but you can only say that you want to apply for asylum (the so-called “manifestazione di volontà”) by communicating it to the organizations and the UNHCR. According to the law, if you refuse to give fingerprints, the police could consider that you can escape and can transfer you to a CPR.


These centres are managed by public local entities, consortia of municipalities and other public or private bodies. These centres are identified and activated by the Prefectures. Those facilities should be opened only in specific and limited cases (when there are not enough places in the Governmental first reception centres) but in fact have become quite widespread all around Italy. CAS (emergency/temporary reception centres) are considered as “emergency centres” (centri di accoglienza straordinaria), identified and activated by the Prefectures. Those facilities should be opened only in specific and limited cases (when there are not enough places in the Governmental first reception centres) but in fact have become quite widespread all around Italy.

First Aid and Reception Centres (CPSA): First aid and assistance operations that continue to take place in the centres set up in the principal places of disembarkation, created in 2006 for the purposes of first aid and identification before persons are transferred to other centres, and now formally operating as Hotspots. According to the law, the maximum stay in these structures must be 3 days (72 hours).

Temporary reception centres: These centres are temporary but many they have become second line reception centres. Within this category of centers reception centers (CDA) and reception centers for asylum seekers (CARA) will now also be included. According to the law, the maximum stay must be a few days in the CDA 35 days in the CARA.

In 2018, SPRAR was renamed SIPROIMI – Protection System for Beneficiaries of International Protection and for Unaccompanied Foreign Minors (Decree-Law no. 113 of 4 October 2018, enacted as Law no. 132 of 1 December 2018).
The new legislation sets out that access to SIPROIMI’s integrated reception services can also be provided to holders of a residence permit for special reasons: as victims of violence, trafficking, domestic violence, labour exploitation or calamities, or for poor health, or for acts of particular civic value.

IMPORTANT: whenever you leave a reception centre (even for a short time), always take the original permit of stay with you or, if you do not have it, an official document (in its original version) that proves that you are waiting for your permit of stay. According to Italian law, if the Italian police do an inspection and you do not have your original permit of stay you risk being sentenced to one year in prison and a 2000 euro fine. Always have with you also your “declaration of hospitality” (dichiarazione di ospitalità) which was given to you by the reception centre where you are, this is needed to prove where you are living at the moment.

IMPORTANT: in any centre you are staying in, if you go away without permission you lose the right to stay in that centre, but not the right of asylum. If you leave your centre you risk, however, not receiving any news about your hearing in the Commission for asylum or other important meetings. In these cases may occur illegal practices such the interruption of the asylum application process or the transfer to Taranto hotspot. Every centre has rules and time schedules that you should respect otherwise you risk to be sent away from the centre. In any case it is your right to be informed about the rules of the centre where you are in a language you understand.

Return Detention Centres (CPR)

Third-country nationals may be detained at a temporary holding facility whether they do not have a valid permit of stay or received an administrative expulsion order.

These centers were originally called CPT (centres for temporary stay) in the Turco-Napolitano Law, then renamed CIE (centres for identification and expulsion) with the Bossi-Fini Law in 2002 and finally indicated with the acronym CPR (Return Detention Centres) in the Minniti-Orlando of 2017.

Originally, the maximum duration of the administrative detention was of 30 days (art 12, Law Turco-Napolitano); the Law Bossi-Fini established that, where the identification procedures are particularly difficult, the detention of migrants can be extended, through judicial order, for other 30 days; in 2013, this period was extended to 90 days. Recently, Art 2 of the Security Decree extended the maximum period of detention to 180 days.

In Italy, nowadays, 6 CPR are active: Roma, Bari, Brindisi, Torino, Potenza and Caltanissetta. By the end of 2019, also the CPR in Gradisca d’Isonzo, Modena, Macomer, Oppido Mamertina and Montichiari should be activated.


An application for international protection can be made by anyone who has suffered from or who is at risk of violence, persecution, threats and, in general, violations of their fundamental rights in their country of origin for reasons of ethnicity, religion, nationality, belonging to a social group (e.g. on sex, gender, sexual orientation, family, culture, education, occupation), political opinion, if your country is involved in an international armed conflict or internal armed conflict, or if, in case you return to your country, there are risks of being condemned, killed or tortured or exposed to inhuman or degrading treatment that violate your freedom and your dignity.

How, when and where can you apply for international protection

everyone can file an application for international protection in every moment through the “manifestazione di volontà” (stating that you wish to ask for political asylum); you can do this either verbally in your language or in a language you know or in writing. From the moment you obtain the permit as asylum seeker until the decision of the Territorial Commission, you are not allowed to leave Italy. An application for international protection (asylum) is an individual process (if you are a parent, your application includes your minor children present in Italy). Applications must be made to the border police (polizia di frontiera) on arrival in Italy by crossing the border by land or sea, or to the Immigration Police (Ufficio Immigrazione di Polizia) near you if you are already in Italy. When you apply for asylum you need to explain the reasons why you are at risk in your country. Remember that poverty and/or your desire to find a job in Italy are not valid reasons to ask for international protection.

The procedure to apply for international protection

According to Italian law, if you entered Italy without a regular Visa, you will need to be identified before applying for asylum. Usually, when you arrive, there is a police officer who will take a picture of you and take your fingerprints (these procedures are called fotosegnalamento and rilievi dattiloscopici). When you apply for international protection, you receive a document which details the date of your appointment to formalise your application for international protection. This is done by filling out the “C3 form”.

REMEMBER: according to the law, the formalisation of your application must be done within one week from the day you go for the first time to the Immigration Office (Questura). In reality it can take you 3 – 4 months before you are able to formalise your application.You will be asked for some personal information (name, date and place of birth, nationality, details about family), your documents, your case, your journey from your country to Italy and why you left your country. You can attach to ” C3 form” a sheet detailing your case and all documents in your possession (e.g. passport, ID card, etc). The police will keep the original version of the C3 form and give you a copy to keep with you. At the end of this procedure, the police issues a ”attestato nominativo”, meaning that you are waiting for confirmation of asylum seeker status, which is usually released after 30 days. Once C3 form has been completed and processed, you receive a “permit of stay as asylum seeker”, which lasts for 6 months and with this permit of stay you have the right to work after two months from the issue date.

REMEMBER: When you fill out C3 form, explain clearly and concisely why you are asking for political asylum;



Your request for international protection will be evaluated by a specific organ called the Territorial Commission (”Commissione Territoriale”), which is usually found in the city or region where you are situated (the Questura will inform you about the date of the audition in the Commission). It is very important for you to be well prepared for the hearing. You must try to be as precise and clear as possible. A lawyer or a social worker at the reception centre where you are staying will help you to write your case (called “memoria”) and will send it to the Territorial Commission.


1) first you have to state your home country and your citizenship, your place and date of birth and your place of residence, years of schooling and education, your work, who your parents are, if you have a husband/wife and children; your ethnicity, your religion and if you belong to a social group or political party;

2) explain why you had to flee and give details about all the violence you suffered and the problems you were confronted with (e.g. prison, torture, violence, abuse, rape, mutilation, female genital mutilation or similar, threats, forced marriage, etc …). Also mention if somebody in your family has experienced similar problems.

3) then explain how you escaped, the countries you passed through, the transport you used, how much you had to pay, imprisonment, torture and threats that you suffered in countries you travelled through, traffickers and the payment for crossing; then specify why you cannot go back to your country, the concrete risks to you, laws and/or practices in your country that violate your rights and your freedom and why you cannot ask the police or family members for help ; remember to mention also if you are still in contact with someone in your home country.

IMPORTANT Starting from the moment you apply for international protection, it’s important that you manage to produce all the personal documents in your possession (letters, identity card, certificates, etc) that can be used as a prove of what you say and of the reasons why you are in danger in your country (you can ask relatives and friends in your country to send you these documents). You can prepare other kinds of documents such as medical report and certificates in Italy. You can send these docudocu
ments to the commission before the hearing, however it’s important that the day of the hearing you bring with you all the documents you have and you give them to the authorities.

By law, the Commission shall decide within six months (or up to nine months in exceptional cases).

The Commission may decide to:

IMPORTANT If you were recognised refugee status, subsidiary protection or humanitarian protection, and if you have the electronic permit of stay and the travel document, you have the right to move freely within the territory of the European Union (except Denmark, Great Britain and Ireland) without visas for a maximum period of three months.


ATTENTION Remember that according to the law if you apply for international protection in Italy you cannot go to another European country until you have a definitive answer by the Territorial Commission where you have your hearing.
Within the European Union, there is a legislation called the Dublin Regulation, which lays down the rules and procedures for deciding in which country of the European Union an asylum seeker can apply for international protection. As soon as you are identified and fingerprinted, Italy must examine your application for international protection. Therefore, if you go to another country, you might be sent back to Italy. According to the “Dublin Regulation 3” there are the following exceptions:

a) the “SOVEREIGNTY CLAUSE” and the “HUMANITARIAN CLAUSE” stipulate that, for specific individual situations, the application for international protection must be evaluated not by the first country of arrival, but by the country where the asylum seeker actually wants to apply;
b) if 12 MONTHS after your arrival in Italy you have not yet applied for asylum, you do not have to apply in Italy, because Italy is not responsible for your asylum application;
c) if you arrived in Italy, did not apply for asylum and there is evidence that you stayed for AT LEAST 5 CONSECUTIVE MONTHS in another her country of the European Union before applying for international protection, this country has to examine your application;
d) if a CLOSE RELATIVE of yours (i.e. husband, wife, father, mother, son/daughter) has already been granted international protection in another country of the European Union, you can apply for asylum in this country asking for family reunification (ricongiungimento familiare). To do so, your relatives have to make a written request to the Italian state; if you are a minor (under 18 years old) you can ask for family reunification in the country of the European union where you have one or more relatives, such as father, mother, brother, sister, son/daughter (minor), uncle, aunt, grandmother.