Tunisian migrants waiting at the Florence police station immigration office | Photo: Maurizio Degli Innocenti / ANSA
Tunisian migrants waiting at the Florence police station immigration office | Photo: Maurizio Degli Innocenti / ANSA

NGOs and groups working with migrants in the Florence area signed an open letter to the city authorities denouncing the "unsustainable situation" that "hundreds of foreign citizens are facing at the time they access the offices of the Florence police for stay permit procedures."

The situation for migrants applying for stay permits in the Italian city of Florence, according to 38 associations and unions in the Florence area has become "unsustainable."

In an open letter, they write that every day "hundreds of foreign citizens face [...] long wait times [...] as they access the Florence police station for their stay permit application."

The open letter points out that there have always been long waiting times but that "now the failure of the 'Cupa project' system as of April 19 and the subsequent inability to book appointments online has created the current serious situation."

The letter described "extremely long lines in front of the police station, which start during the night and often force people to sleep outdoors," and said that included even accompanying children and people in "conditions of vulnerability."

It said sometimes people have to wait in the queue for consecutive days if they are unable to get one of the limited numbers of appointments issued each day. It said even once users gain access to the police station "they then have to face a second queue on the day of their appointment."

'A situation incomprehensibly devoid of dignity'

The associations said that the "discomforts" they described "together with delays in issuing stay permits and the inability to contact the immigration office at the police station by phone to obtain information, as well as delays of weeks, if not months, in having a response by certified email, disregard the principles of impartiality and good performance by which the police station should operate."

The letter went on to call for "an increase in office personnel and alternative organizational structures with regards to access would certainly also benefit the staff, as well as put an end to a situation that incomprehensibly deprives the user of dignity."

Florence police station says additional access has been provided

Responding to the criticism, the Florence police station said, they had recently announced they would be opening "additional windows dedicated to issuing stay permits that were not possible via email" and that these would be operation from Monday, June 21.

In addition, starting on Monday five officers from other offices were moved to the immigration office team "to collaborate with personnel at the windows and to help process all of the people in line by 9 am each morning."

Mindful of the long waits in the heat in the summer, the police said they had asked the city authorities "for kiosks to provide shade for the people queuing." They had also called on the civil protection organization to distribute water to those waiting in line.

The police station said that people "with vulnerabilities and disabilities who appear, or are identified, by officers at the immigration office, will be given priority access." All of these measures, it said, "were adopted in order to make up for the abolition of the system known as 'Cupa Project' and pending the imminent activation of a new platform."


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