During the year many countries in the EU and Southeast Europe experienced an unprecedented wave of migration from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, consisting of a mix of asylum seekers/potential refugees, economic migrants, and trafficking victims, among others. For simplicity, this report will refer to these populations as “migrants and asylum seekers” if more specific information is not available.
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.
During the year high numbers of migrants and refugees arrived in the country, overwhelming the system for granting asylum. Between January 1 and November 27, the government received 62,917 requests for asylum and granted asylum or some form of legal protection to 26,767 persons. The flows of migrants and refugees arriving by boat from Greece and Turkey (largely Syrians) decreased from the previous year, but the number of arrivals originating from Sub-Saharan Africa via Libya markedly increased. Between January 1 and December 14, a total of 149,400 migrants and refugees reached the country by sea. Approximately 26 percent of these were Eritrean, 14 percent Nigerian, 8 percent Somalian, and 5 percent Syrian.
NGOs and independent observers reported on shortcomings in the identification of foreigners and asylum procedures, including inconsistency of standards applied in reception centers and difficulties accessing information. As of December 18, the country transferred 160 refugees to other EU member states as part of an EU plan agreed to in May.
Between January and October 10, a total of 10,322 unaccompanied minors arrived in the country. As of August 31, approximately 8,900 unaccompanied minors were hosted in protected communities (see section 6, Children).
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. Between January and August, the government deported or repatriated 8,497 migrants, primarily to Tunisia, Egypt, and Nigeria. Between January and December 1, authorities also expelled 60 foreigners from the country due to their alleged ties to Islamic extremist groups.
Refugee Abuse: Representatives of UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations condemned alleged abuse of minors who were seeking asylum, prolonged periods of their detention, and their inadequate access to cultural mediators and lawyers. Mixed populations of refugees and migrants often remained in centers longer than the 35-day limit set by law.
On August 7, approximately 300 migrants and refugees occupied a highway near Naples to protest against poor living conditions at the shelter where they were staying. During the year asylum seekers also staged protests against substandard living conditions and protracted asylum processes at shelters for asylum seekers in Bresso, Crotone, and Bari.
Employment: Employers continued to discriminate against noncitizens in the labor market. Employers and organized criminals also continued to take advantage of the lack of legal protection for noncitizens against exploitation to subject them to abusive working conditions. NGOs and immigrant communities alleged that the lack of counseling and training programs limited refugees’ access to jobs. The paucity of official protective measures for new immigrants, legal or otherwise, made these communities particularly vulnerable to exploitation by criminal organizations. In June the agro-industrial union FLAI CGIL and the association Faso Zekola condemned what they termed labor exploitation and unacceptable living conditions of several workers from Nigeria, Ghana, and Burkina Faso who were working as farmers in Campania (also see section 7.d. and 7.e.).
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. NGOs reported thousands of legal and irregular foreigners, including migrants and refugees, lived in abandoned buildings in Rome and other major cities and had limited access to public services. The press reported limited health care, inadequate and overcrowded facilities, and a lack of access to legal counseling and basic education. Representatives of UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration, and other humanitarian organizations denounced inhuman living conditions, in particular overcrowding, in reception centers.
Durable Solutions: The government generally attempted to provide for integration, resettlement, and returns as aspects of durable solutions for refugees, with mixed results. Formal efforts to integrate immigrants into the country’s society were limited. Additionally, high unemployment limited the possibility of legal employment for large numbers of refugees. 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. Processing times for asylum claims lasted from six to 15 months depending on the region.
Temporary Protection: The government also provided protection to individuals who may not qualify as refugees. Between January and October 20, the government provided humanitarian protection to 10,821 persons and subsidiary protection to 7,242 persons.