Main information | Buddies, cultural mediators

Jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior

It is worth noting that even though the Ministry of Interior deals about immigration in terms of security, it also considers immigrants’ integration to be a fundamental part, and not a marginal one, of its jurisdiction. This perspective has been expressed clearly, when commenting the “Multiannual Programme” of the European Fund for the Integration of Thirdcountry Nationals (2009-2013): “The need to avoid the social exclusion and the economic uncertainty of the immigrant rises from the conviction that exclusion and closure generate social conflicts, increasing the fragility and vulnerability perceived by the individual and leading to hardship, which often become social pathology, illegality, criminal behaviors and 24 the exploitation of the immigrants by criminals. Moreover, the principles on which the Consolidation Act on Immigration is based are the migration flows, the fight against irregular immigration and the integration of regular immigrants. The fundamental principles of the Italian law, focused on the main issues related to immigration, have been proposed within the so called “Charter on the Values of Citizenship and Integration” (published on the Gazzetta Ufficiale no. 137 on June 15, 2007). The charter, which is a Directive of the Ministry of Interior, has been translated in the most important languages, and presented to various communities. The activity of the Ministry of Interior has been more and more characterized by regularity and integration; in April 2010, the Ministry of Interior published the document titled “Iniziative dell’Italia – Sicurezza, Immigrazione, Asilo” (Italian Initiatives: Safety, Immigration, Asylum), documenting the main initiatives undertaken on the matter, and the results obtained. Along these lines is the “Plan for Integration in Security” titled “Identity and Encounter”, approved by the Council of Ministers of June 10, 2010, which defines the main lines of action and tools to be adopted in order to promote a successful integration process of immigrants, thus meeting the needs for both security and reception. This Plan, promoted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Instruction, University and Research, is based on five basic principles of integration: education and learning, work, housing and local administration, access to the most essential services, integration of minors and second generations. In order to implement this Plan, in August 2010 the Central Directorate for Immigration of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies signed an agreement with the ANCI (the representative body of the Italian Municipalities). Among the other things this agreement, which was funded by the Ministry with 74,012,000 euro in February 2011, provides for the analysis and exchange of good practices promoted at the local level, by means of a series of integrated and coordinated actions. Together with the Plan, the “Integration Agreement” between the foreigner and the State is one of the operational tools provided for by the “security package”. We should also not forget one of the objectives of the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals (2009-2013), of whose elaboration and implementation is in charge the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration: “the effort […] is entirely focused on composing and harmonizing various identities in a social and civil structure which, in turn, is considerably complex and articulated, within a balanced framework that shall ensure social cohesion and security”. This program (established by the EU Council Decision no. 2007/435/EC of June 25, 2007) allocated considerable resources to the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration for the promotion of integration activities: for the entire period 2007/2013, the European Fund for the Integration of Third-country Nationals (EIF) has contributed with about 130 million euro, while Italy co-financed the program at a national level with 42,852,987 euro, for a total of 146,218,883 euro.

The main priorities for the activities of the EIF are:

  • language formation and civic orientation;
  • work orientation and professional formation;
  • school orientation and insertion; – awareness, information and communication;
  • definition and promotion of the role of cultural mediator;
  • actions in behalf of women, foreign minors and second generations; – actions to promote family reunifications;
  • innovating programs to ensure the access to the necessary information and facilitate the information processes.

The first three of these actions are considered priorities also by Regions, Territorial Councils for Immigration and Associations, as outlined by the “Consultazione nazionale 2011 sui fabbisogni territoriali di integrazione” (2011 National consultation on the territorial needs for integration), promoted by the General Directorate for Immigration and Asylum Policies of the Ministry of Interior (Ministry of Interior, 2001b). In order to improve information exchange and best practices regarding integration, a new editorial project consisting of a bimonthly magazine titled Libertàcivili (Civil Liberties) has been launched by the Ministry of Interior in 2010. This magazine is widely distributed and contains articles written by researchers and operators in the field of migration. We should also remember that the new Monti Government (which took office on November 16, 2011), with the institution of a new Ministry for International Cooperation and Integration, gave a clear signal of an innovative interpretation of the relationship between cooperation, migration and co-development, of which Italy is in great need: the simple division Italy/foreign is thus overcome, and the presence of migrants is finally seen as an important factor.

Municipal elections: a perspective

Still doubts about the voting rights in Municipal elections. According to a prevailing legal hypothesis, art. 48 of the Italian Constitution recognizes the right to vote only to Italian citizens or naturalized one; there is another minority hypothesis, however, which considers the term “citizen” more extensively, including in it not only people with Italian citizenship; based on the latter hypothesis, therefore, the political rights should be extended to third country nationals as well. At present, only Italian citizens have the right to vote, while EU citizens may vote only in the local and European Parliament elections. However, laws have been proposed in order to recognize the right to vote in local government elections for nonEU citizens residing in Italy for several years.

With regards to other international instruments, the Strasbourg Convention (1992) provided both for the assignment of the right to vote, as well as for the constitution of advisory bodies (or the implementation of other dispositions at an institutional level), in order to ensure an adequate representation of resident immigrants in the local communities; however, without taking into consideration the right to vote, Italy ratified the convention only by establishing a specific Committee and an additional councillor. The Committee is a collegial body, whose members are elected by foreign residents, in a number proportional to the relevance of third country nationals in the territory; the elected representatives have the responsibility to talk to the institutions and express a non-binding opinion. Additional councillors perform similar functions. An extensive network of organizations representing immigrants at a local level (Committees, Councils, Additional Councillors) has been operating in Italy for more than 10 years; even if without any decision power, they ensure a certain degree of visibility to the needs of foreign citizens. The consultative participation, even if considered very important by the immigrant communities, is deemed an intermediate solution before the long-sought right to vote. These experiences of consultative participation, however, have shown severe limitations, and are now in deep crisis and in the process of revision.

Cultural mediation

Cultural mediation: waiting for an official recognition. The Italian legislation on immigration considers cultural mediation as a very important activity, meant to be, with a rather fitting expression used by the National Council of Economy and Labour, “the measure of integration policies”. Cultural mediation is carried out by mediators: they are professionals employed mainly by local authorities – mostly in the educational and healthcare services – but also by national and local public institutions (like police headquarters, prisons, etc.) in various other fields, all over the territory. Mediators’ main task consists in overcoming the communication barriers (both linguistic and cultural) that can occur while interacting with migrants, by acknowledging the many important elements of the “migrant identity” (migration project, family reunification, socialization, cultural changes related to long-term migration, etc.). A mediator is not only an interpreter of language and culture, but his/her duty also consists in supporting the sociocultural interactions and relationships, as a point of contact between the Italian culture and that of the country of origin of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Thanks to its many ways to mediate conflicts, cultural mediation is taking a strategic role in urban regeneration projects: cultural mediators, in fact, by providing information and interpretation services, can play an important role in support of the social mediators. According to old estimates, in Italy there are about 4-5 thousand cultural mediators; most of them are immigrants, and 75% are women (with a high turnover rate). At the European level, cultural mediators’ role is still unclear: they are not present or legally recognized in every country, and their tasks are not clearly defined by national legislations. In Italy, cultural mediation has been discussed since the end of the ’80s; the first document mentioning it officially dates back to 1990. While at a national level, rules and directives regarding cultural mediation have been fragmented or totally undefined, at a regional and local level there have been a series of rules (characterized by lack of homogeneity and coherence) with regard to prerequisites for access, training, jurisdiction, and other aspects. Although cultural mediators (both male and female ones) are more and more relevant for the integration process, they have not obtained the recognition or legitimization of their role yet. The various official initiatives launched in 2009 (either by the Ministry of Interior, CNEL, the Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces, as well as by many Parliamentary Bills) which aimed at obtaining the official recognition of cultural mediators’ professional role, have not been successful. Although a country of immigration like Italy should intrinsically be able to mediate with newcomers through its own laws, institutions and officers, the positive role of mediators during this intermediate phase is undeniable.


First reception: CPSA / Hotspots

LD 142/2015 states that the first rescue and assistance operations take place in the centres regulated by the L 563/1995 – the so called Apulia Law – which, though improperly, is considered to govern the first aid and reception centres (CPSA) present at the main places of disembarkation. During 2016, in addition to the existing centres placed in Lampedusa(Agrigento) and Pozzallo (Ragusa), procedures were implemented the centres in Taranto and Trapani. The law does not provide a legal framework to the operations carried out in the CPSA. During 2016, the Government clarified that such centres served as Hotspots (see also Detention). According to the SOPs, persons should stay in these centres “as short as possible“, but in practice they are accommodated for days or weeks. As these few centres constantly face emergency situations with arrivals, as reported by several actors, reception conditions are very poor.

Governmental first reception centres

LD 142/2015 provides that the governmental first reception centres are managed by public local entities, consortia of municipalities and other public or private bodies specialised in the assistance of asylum applicants through public tender. Moreover, the Minister of the Interior adopts a decree on the call for tender for the supply of services for the functioning of the first reception centres and of temporary accommodation structures (CAS), more than of CIE and CPSA, in order to ensure uniform reception levels in the whole national territory.

Occupancy of first reception centres: 24 January 2017

First accommodation centres Occupancy
Gorizia 516
Udine (Caserma Cavarzerani) 693
Bologna (Mattei centre) 626
Rome, Castelnuovo di Porto 845
Foggia 1,353
Bari 1,622
Brindisi 221
Crotone 1,085
Catania, Mineo 3650
Caltanissetta 499
Agrigento, Villa Sikania 1,353
Messina, ex Caserma Gasparro 180
Padova, Bagnoli di Sopra 828
Treviso, ex Caserma Serena 708
Venezia, Conetta di Cona 1,234

Source: Chamber of Deputies

Accordingly to the Italian Roadmap, during 2016, the first reception centres have been implemented, and as of the beginning of 2017, first reception centres hosted approximately 14,000 asylum seekers. The situation of some of these centres is particularly critical due to overcrowding. This is the case for:

  • Bari, which can accommodate a maximum of 1,216 persons, but hosts 1,622 asylum seekers;
  • Catania Mineo, with a maximum capacity of 3,000 persons, which hosts 3,650 asylum seekers;
  • Gorizia, with a maximum capacity of 138, which hosts 516 asylum seekers, including places previously reserved for CIE.

Second-line reception: SPRAR

The structures available to host asylum seekers and refugees mainly consist of flats (82% of the total number of facilities), small reception centres (12%), and community homes (6%). The community homes are mainly addressed to unaccompanied minors. Funding is provided by the Interior Ministry to the municipalities selected among those participating in the national competition, published at least once every three years; the presentation of the project by the municipalities is purely voluntary and foresees a cost- sharing mechanism.

On 17 September 2013, the Head of the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration (Ministry of Interior) issued a decree that foresees an increase of the accommodation capacity of the SPRAR system to reach up to 16,000 places in the period 2014-2016. Moreover, to face the emergency situation due to consistent arrivals by sea of migrants and asylum seekers, the Italian Ministry of Interior has increased the funds partially allocated to the accommodation system.7 With specific regard to the increased funds for reception conditions, Decree-Law 119/2014 established an additional €50.8 million to the National Funds for policies and services of asylum, aimed at enlarging the SPRAR system, and created a new provisional fund to face the exceptional migratory flows to Italy, allocating €62.7 million. Through a Decree of 27 April 2015, the Ministry of Interior established specific reception capacity for unaccompanied children, with 1,000 places in SPRAR accommodation to be provided by the end of 2016. Thanks to the Decree of 7 August 2015 of the Minister of the Interior, an additional 10,000 places have become available within the SPRAR system through a public notice addressed to local authorities published on 7 October 2015.

In order to promote accession to the SPRAR system by a larger number of local authorities, LD 142/2015 has introduced the possibility of derogating from the limit established by law, under which the state funding cannot exceed the quota of 80% of the total cost of each project. On 10 August 2016, the Ministry of Interior issued a Decree to facilitate the accession of municipalities to SPRAR system, making it possible at any time without deadlines. On 11 October 2016, the Ministry has issued a Decree to promote the expansion of the SPRAR system. The Ministry aims to encourage municipalities to host asylum seekers in their territories, inviting Prefectures not to open new CAS or to gradually close the existing ones in those territories where the municipalities participate in SPRAR.

In the last five years, funding for the SPRAR reception capacity has grown exponentially: from 3,979 places financed in 2011 to 9,356 places between 2012 and 2013, and then to 20,965 places financed for 2014-2016, in addition to another 10,000 places planned for the 2016-2017 period. At present, 649 reception projects have been adopted, hosting a total of 23,107 persons. Out of these, 99 reception projects are dedicated to unaccompanied children and host 2,039 minors, while 45 reception projects are destined to persons with mental disorders and disabilities, with 574 persons accommodated. The total number of accommodation places in the 649 SPRAR projects financed as of 24 January 2017 amounted to around 25,934. Though considerable, the growth of SPRAR is not sufficient to meet the accommodation needs, as SPRAR places cover only the 20% of the effective reception demand.

Temporary reception: CAS

In case of temporary unavailability of places in the first and second reception centres, LD 142/2015 provides the use of emergency centres (centri di accoglienza straordinaria), identified and activated by the Prefectures, in cooperation with the Interior Ministry, and notified to the local authority in whose territory the structures will be set up. Activation is reserved for emergency cases of substantial arrivals but applies in practice to all situations in which, like the current one, the places in ordinary centres are not sufficient to meet the reception demand. The CAS are specifically designed not only for the first accommodation phase but also to provide second-line reception for the time “strictly necessary” until the transfer of asylum seekers to a SPRAR structure.

The services guaranteed are merely essential as in the first reception centres. The CAS system, designed as temporary and preparatory to SPRAR, has expanded to the point of being absorbed in the ordinary system, if not entailing a total reorganisation of the reception system. LD 142/2015 missed the opportunity to actually change the system and simply named these centres no longer as extraordinary but as “temporary centres” (strutture temporanee). As of the end of December 2016, CAS hosted over 75% of the population with approximately 137,218 persons, while SPRAR hosted 23,822 and first reception centres 14,694.

Other types of accommodation

Finally, in addition to the above mentioned reception centres, there is also a network of private accommodation structures which are not part of the national reception system, provided for example by Catholic or voluntary associations, which support a number of asylum seekers and refugees in addition to the places available through the SPRAR. It is very difficult to ascertain the number of available places. The function of these structures is relevant especially in emergency cases or as integration pathways after or in place of SPRAR. Some of these experiences are ongoing for example in Bologna, and Trieste. Apart from churches and families involved in the reception system, several churches have already accommodated refugees and many others have decided to do so following the Pope’s call of 6 September 2015. As recorded in the report curated by Anci, as of 1 June, there were 2016 almost 5,000 asylum seekers and refugees accommodated in parishes and families connected to the Church.