Italy's national ombudsman for detainee rights Mauro Palma during a conference in Genoa | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/LUCA ZENNARO
Italy's national ombudsman for detainee rights Mauro Palma during a conference in Genoa | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/LUCA ZENNARO

The Italian ombudsman for detainees said that migrant arrivals in Italy have seen a large increase in recent years and that they "will not decrease in the next few years". Spaking to the country's parliament he urged for legal pathways to the country.

Official figures show that migrant arrivals to Italy returned last year to those seen prior to the COVID pandemic: In 2021, some 44,292 people (including 8,934 minors) were recorded in the country's hotspots, a figure similar to that recorded in 2017.

However, compared with that time, there is a number on the Italian island of Lampedusa that is four times higher and a reduced number of repatriations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a linked reduced possibility to organize flights.

The number of people repatriated last year was at 3,420, while 6,153 were instead rejected at the border. The percentage of repatriations in relation to stays in repatriation centers has instead not changed: of the 10 centers in Italy with an overall capacity of 711, the percentage of people detained has remained at around 49% for an average stay of about 36 days.

Italy's national ombudsman for detainee rights, Mauro Palma, took stock of the situation and provided these figures on Monday (June 20) before the country's parliament, noting that migrant arrivals to Italy "will not decrease in the coming years." Instead they will "increase in size, partially due to the many conflicts in several parts of the world and, in particular, of the latest even closer to us," he said.

Systemic solutions for legal access to Italy required

The current approach, "using hotspots, repatriation centers, attempts at repatriation, asymmetric numbers among arrivals, repatriations, and integrations into the community -- and especially the great deal of unnecessary suffering and large-scale waste of vehicles, people and money -- does not have the features of an effective 'policy', " he added.

There is instead the need for "systemic solutions that include the possibility for legal access to our country and forms of reception aiming to facilitate gradual, widespread and safe integration into various parts of the country, towards which we need to direct investment in the sector," the ombudsman said.

He added that he hoped that "citizenship will be granted as soon as possible to those who have long been in Italy and who have completed a cycle of education" in the country.

One of the issues raised was that of the "legitimacy" of the treatment of migrants in permanent repatriation centers (CPR) when it is "already clear" that repatriation towards the country of origin "will not be possible".

He noted that "taking the freedom away from an undocumented migrant officially designated for repatriation cannot be acceptable when it is certain that this cannot happen."

Progress for CPRs but still inefficient

In 2021, fewer than half the people who transited through the CPR were actually repatriated. "The systemic inefficiency of these centers, already revealed in previous reports to the parliament, thus continues and there is the question of that time taken away from living (for the person detained, ed. note) and the legitimacy itself of the privation of freedom," said Daniela de Robert, member of the board of the national ombudsman for detainee rights, in her speech as part of the report before the parliament.

"This privation," she noted, "is justified only for the purpose of repatriation, which is not achieved in over half the cases."

The maximum time the migrants can be held is 120 days and "the average stay in the various facilities over the past year was 36 days," she said, noting that however this time however proved useless for the ends envisioned.

She added that the May 19 approval of a directive by Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese on criteria for the organization of the repatriation centers, which replaced regulations introduced in 2014, "undoubtedly marked progress in the regulation of these centers, but there is nonetheless a lack of a regulatory framework that, similar to penitentiary framework, draws up complete regulations for the treatment of detainees."


More articles