Asylum seekers returned to Italy under the Dublin Regulation face arbitrary access to accommodation, risks of destitution and substandard reception conditions despite Italy’s obligation to provide guarantees of adequate treatment, according to a report published this week.
The report, prepared by the Danish and Swiss Refugee Councils, contains 13 case studies of Dublin return of asylum seekers with different vulnerabilities, ranging from single-parent families to persons suffering from mental disorders and victims of violence. The European Court of Human Rights clarified in Tarakhel v. Switzerland that Member States should obtain assurances from the Italian authorities that asylum seekers with special needs would be adequately accommodated prior to carrying out a transfer.
The report illustrates the arbitrariness underlying Dublin returnees’ reception by the authorities, timely access to accommodation and to the asylum procedure, and quality of reception conditions. Many asylum seekers have had to wait for several hours or even days without any support at airports such as Rome Fuimicino and Milan Malpensa before being received by the Italian police. Some Dublin returnees are denied access to the Italian reception system upon arrival altogether or must wait a long time before they are accommodated in second-line reception facilities (SPRAR). Substandard conditions in first reception centres and temporary reception centres (CAS) are widely reported, falling far below standards for persons with special needs.
Access to the asylum procedure is equally problematic. Asylum seekers returned under the Dublin Regulation have to approach the Immigration Office of the Police (Questura) to obtain an appointment to lodge their claim. However, the delay for such an appointment reaches several months in most cases.
The risks of destitution and exposure to unacceptable reception conditions upon return from other countries have been been exacerbated by the entry into force of Decree-Law 113/2018, recently confirmed by Law 132/2018, following which only beneficiaries of international protection and unaccompanied children are eligible for reception in SPRAR. Accordingly, the vast majority of asylum seekers will only have access to first reception centres and CAS which offer very limited support.
The reform has prompted some Member States to re-examine the legality of Dublin procedures vis-à-vis Italy, with some domestic courts suspending individual transfers on account of an increasingly hostile environment on migration. The Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) is revising its policy on Dublin transfers of families with children to Italy in light of the reform. Transfers of families have been suspended pending further investigations into the situation of asylum seekers in the country.