Italy: Immigration status of persons who have been accorded international and humanitarian protection; information on the rights and responsibilities associated with said status, including employment, education, healthcare, and the ability to travel in and out of the country; requirements and procedures to renew said status, and circumstances under which the status is lost (2017-November 2018) [ITA106193.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Categories of Protection

Sources explain that there are three categories of protection that can be granted to foreign nationals in Italy: "refugee status," "subsidiary protection," and "humanitarian protection" (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118; US Mar. 2016; Refugee.info n.d.a).

The US Law Library of Congress, in an article providing a summary of asylum laws in Italy, explains that refugee status and subsidiary protection can be obtained by requesting international protection in Italy (US Mar. 2016). Sources indicate that "humanitarian protection" may be granted in cases were a claim for international protection has been denied (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118; US Mar. 2016; Refugee.info n.d.a).

According to sources, refugee status is granted after the recognition of a "well-founded fear" of persecution with regards to the claimant's country of origin (US Mar. 2016; Refugee.info n.d.b). The Law Library of Congress further indicates that this status can also be granted to a stateless person who meets the definition of "'refugee' for legal purposes in Italy" (US Mar. 2016).

According to sources, a person who does not qualify for refugee status may qualify for subsidiary protection if it is determined that they face a risk of suffering "serious harm" upon return to their country of origin (US Mar. 2016; Refugee.info. n.d.b). The Law Library of Congress further indicates that stateless persons who do not qualify for refugee status can also qualify for subsidiary protection (US Mar. 2016).

Regarding humanitarian protection, the Law Library of Congress states that it "is the protection granted to citizens of a third country who are found in objective and serious personal conditions that do not allow their removal from Italy" (US Mar. 2016). According to Refugee.info [1], humanitarian protection may be granted if "there are reasons to recognise a discretional protection," such as a special need due to age, health condition, or if the situation in the country of origin "is very dangerous" (Refugee.info n.d.b). According to sources, humanitarian protection was the most used form of protection as of September 2018, granted to 25 percent of those who sought asylum in the previous year (Reuters 24 Sept. 2018; The Guardian 24 Sept. 2018).

Sources report that in September 2018, the Italian government issued a decree regarding access to asylum (Politico 25 Sept. 2018; Reuters 24 Sept. 2018; The Guardian 24 Sept. 2018). Sources state that humanitarian protection would be abolished by this decree (The Guardian 24 Sept. 2018; Naga 20 Nov. 2018). However, other sources report that the decree restricts admissibility to humanitarian protection (Politico 25 Sept. 2018; Reuters 24 Sept. 2018). According to sources, humanitarian protection would be limited to those who need immediate medical care, victims of human trafficking, labour exploitation and natural disasters (Politico 25 Sept. 2018; Reuters 24 Sept. 2018), domestic violence and "people who carry out 'particularly valuable civic acts'" (Reuters 24 Sept. 2018). Reuters reported on 24 September 2018 that the "emergency" decree had "60 days to secure parliamentary approval" (Reuters 24 Sept. 2018). In 20 November 2018 correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of Naga - Associazione volontaria di assistenza socio-sanitaria e per i diritti di cittadini stranieri, rom e sinti - Onlus (Naga), which provides legal aid to asylum seekers [2], stated that the decree "will be converted into law in about two weeks' time" (Naga 20 Nov. 2018).

2. Rights
2.1 Residency Permits

Sources explain that those with refugee status or subsidiary protection obtain renewable residency permits [also translated as "permits of stay"] valid for five years (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118; US Mar. 2016; Refugee.info n.d.a). According to sources these permits are respectively called permesso di soggiorno [residency permit] [for asilo (asylum) (AE 22 Nov. 2018)] and [permesso] protezione sussidiaria [subsidiary protection permit] (AE 22 Nov. 2018; Refugee.info n.d.a). Those who are granted humanitarian protection receive a two-year renewable residency permit (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118; Refugee.info n.d.a). According to sources, this permit is called permesso per protezione umanitaria [permit for humanitarian protection] (Refugee.info n.d.a) or permesso di soggiorno per motivi umanitari [residence permit for humanitarian reasons] (AE 22 Nov. 2018).

2.2 Access to Employment, Healthcare, Education and Social Services

Refugee.info states that a person with a refugee status permit "has the same rights as an Italian citizen," except for voting or being elected to public office (Refugee.info n.d.b). The Law Library of Congress similarly indicates that those with refugee status and those receiving subsidiary protection are entitled to the same rights granted to Italian citizens, including employment, healthcare, social services, education and professional training services (US Mar. 2016).

Refugee.info states that those with refugee status, subsidiary protection or humanitarian protection have the right to work and to access healthcare as well as public education (Refugee.info n.d.b). The same source indicates that those with refugee status or subsidiary protection have the right to social assistance (Refugee.info n.d.b).

However, the representative of Naga stated that while access to social services is granted in principle to all holders of residency permits, "the reality is way different" (Naga 20 Nov. 2018). The same source explained the following:

In fact, social services are normally organized by municipalities, or regions, and are granted only to citizens who are RESIDENT in those municipalities. Residency is connected to the dwelling place so, in short, a common situation is: no home, no residency, no services. (Naga 20 Nov. 2018, emphasis in original)

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of asilo in Europa (AE), an NGO based in Bologna which focuses on asylum protection [3], similarly stated that

the main issue for beneficiaries of international protection concerns the chance to have or not residenza, which is basically the registration in a municipality that certifies people’s address and gives access to several rights, including access to welfare. Unfortunately, the situation is extremely heterogeneous because the decision to register beneficiaries of international protection is [made] by each municipality, or even left to the discretion of each single officer of the municipality. As a result, there might be the case of people who have the same juridical status, but one has residenza – thus access to social services – and the other has not. (AE 22 Nov. 2018)

The Naga representative added that "[e]veryone has the right to access health care services, but access is universal only in case of an emergency, in the emergency services of hospitals" (Naga 20 Nov. 2018). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.3 Mobility

The Law Library of Congress states that according to the Legislative Decree No. 251 of 2007, "[e]xcept in limited circumstances, refugees and protected persons may circulate freely in the national territory" (US Mar. 2016). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Refugee.info states that those with refugee status or subsidiary protection have the right to travel within the European Union (EU) for up to three months, specifically to any other Schengen-area countries, but without the right to live or work in those countries (Refugee.info n.d.b). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Law Library of Congress states that persons granted refugee status in Italy can travel overseas after obtaining authorization from the police (US Mar. 2016). Other sources state that those with refugee status have the right to obtain travel documentation (ECRE Mar. 2018, 125; Refugee.info n.d.b), called a documento di viaggio [travel document] (Refugee.info n.d.b).

The Law Library of Congress indicates that if they are unable to obtain a passport from their country of origin, those with subsidiary protection have the right to obtain a permission to travel (US Mar. 2016). According to sources, this permission is a travel permit called titolo di viaggio [travel pass] (ECRE Mar. 2018, 125; Refugee.info n.d.b). A 2017 country report on Italy by the Asylum Information Database (AIDA) [4] explains that this permit can be obtained if the person does not have a passport or are unable to contact their embassy (ECRE Mar. 2018, 125). The AIDA report specifies that the decision to grant a titolo di viaggio is made by the questura (police headquarters), and notes the "widespread practice of some [q]uesture not to respond to applications for travel documents submitted by holders of subsidiary protection" (ECRE Mar. 2018, 125). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.4 Family Reunification

Refugee.info reports that those with refugee status or subsidiary protection have the right to family reunification (Refugee.info n.d.b). The Law Library of Congress provides the following details:

Family members who are not entitled to the status of international protection enjoy the same rights afforded to their family member who enjoys such status. Family members of persons who are granted international protection status who are present in the national territory and are not individually entitled to that right may obtain a residency permit on the basis of "family reasons" as provided in the law. (US Mar. 2016)

The AIDA report states that

[w]here a beneficiary cannot provide official documentary evidence of the family relationship, the necessary documents are issued by the Italian diplomatic or consular representations in his or her country of origin, which makes the necessary checks at the expense of the person concerned. The family relationship can also be proved by other means and through UNHCR involvement. The application cannot be rejected solely for lack of documentation. (ECRE Mar. 2018, 124)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to Refugee.info, those with humanitarian protection permits do not have the right to bring their family to Italy (Refugee.info n.d.b). However, the same source explains that two years after the issuance of the permit, a person with a humanitarian protection permit can convert it to a "normal working permit" and can then bring their family to Italy (Refugee.info n.d.b). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

2.5 Change of Status

Sources state that after five years of residency, those with refugee status have the right to apply for Italian citizenship (ECRE Mar. 2018, 120; Refugee.info n.d.b) according to the 1992 Citizenship Act (ECRE Mar. 2018, 120). According to the AIDA report, those granted subsidiary protection can apply for citizenship after 10 years of residency in Italy (ECRE Mar. 2018, 120).

However, without providing further details, the AIDA report further indicates that the requirement to demonstrate continuous, uninterrupted residency registration at the registry office is a challenge for those granted international protection as it difficult for them to maintain a residency due to their "precarious situation" (ECRE Mar. 2018, 120). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Refugee.info states that those receiving subsidiary protection have the right to apply for an EU long-term [residence] permit after five years of residency in Italy (Refugee.info n.d.b).

According to Refugee.info, the humanitarian protection permit can be converted into a regular work permit after two years (Refugee.info n.d.b). Refugee.info specifies that this can be done "if the person has a stable job at the time of the renewal" (Refugee.info n.d.b).

3. Requirements and Procedures to Renew Status

The AIDA report indicates that applications for residency permits must be made at the questura of the place of residency (ECRE Mar. 2018, 119).

3.1 Refugee Status

According to Refugee.info, a request to renew a refugee status residency permit is also made at the questura of the place of residency (Refugee.info n.d.c). The AIDA report states that "[t]he renewal of the residency permit [for refugee status] is done by filling out the appropriate form and sending it through the post office" (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118). According to the Law Library of Congress, the Legislative Decree No. 251 of 2007 provides that "[a]pplications for all types of permits may be rejected or the permits withdrawn for serious reasons related to national security and the public order" (US Mar. 2016).

According to the AIDA report, "people have to wait ... up to several months to know the outcome of the request and to obtain the new permit" (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

3.2 Subsidiary Protection

The AIDA report notes that a re-examination is done when assessing applications for renewing a residency permit for subsidiary protection (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118). Refugee.info specifies that the application for renewal of the permit must be sent to the questura, which then sends it to the relevant territorial commission (Refugee.info n.d.d). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

According to sources, a verification is done to determine whether the same qualifying conditions continue to prevail, using information provided by the police (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118; Refugee.info n.d.d). According to Refugee.info, it may take longer to renew a residency permit for subsidiary protection than renewing a refugee status residency permit (Refugee.info n.d.c). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

Sources state that subsidiary protection residency permits are usually renewed in practice, unless a "serious" crime was committed by the holder (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118; Refugee.info n.d.c). However, the AIDA report adds that there have been cases where renewals of subsidiary protection have initially not been granted because the applicant had travelled to their country of origin or had contacts with their embassy, although these decisions were reversed through legal intervention (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118).

3.3 Humanitarian Protection

Without providing further details, refugee.info states that requests for the renewal of a humanitarian protection residency permit should be sent to the questura of the place of residency (Refugee.info n.d.d).

Refugee.info states that the person's "good conduct" will be checked by authorities at renewal (Refugee.info n.d.b). Sources state that even minor or "'light'" crimes may prevent the renewal of a humanitarian protection residency permit (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118; Refugee.info n.d.c). The AIDA report adds that "[a]nother frequent reason why these permits are not renewed is evidence that the refugee has had contacts with his or her embassy or has returned to the country of origin, even for a short period" (ECRE Mar. 2018, 119). According to the Naga representative,

[t]he humanitarian protection … has been the easiest form of protection to be lost. In fact, it may be lost if the Territorial Commission for Asylum gives a negative opinion regarding your renewal application. And that may happen if the conditions of your country of origin have improved, or for any other reason connected to your personal story. If the commission says that you are no longer at risk if sent back to your country, you will lose the right to your humanitarian protection, and consequently your permit of stay. (Naga 20 Nov. 2018)

3.4 Challenges Regarding Renewal of Status

According to sources, challenges and difficulties may be faced when renewing residency permits (Naga 20 Nov. 2018; ECRE Mar. 2018, 118). According to the Naga representative,

[t]here are some police offices where applicants just go whenever they need to. Other police offices (the bigger ones) are off limits. Admittance is practically impossible unless you have an appointment, and if you want to book an appointment you have to open an account and register on a specific website. That website often gives appointments over a year later.

This happens regularly to asylum seekers, but also to asylum seekers who are appealing against their refused asylum claim. This may also happen to other categories, including people who have already been granted some form of protection, according to procedures which are constantly changing. It is often difficult for them to know what procedure to follow, and only experienced operators working with migrants may know the procedure. Changes are so frequent that we check the procedures every time before giving advice. (Naga 20 Nov. 2018)

The same source wrote that the police

normally ask people to return several times, after months of waiting for a new appointment, in order to bring additional documents. The fact that the system operates in this way, often times haphazardly, with constantly changing requirements for accessing the office and obtaining a renewal, and requests for documents which are increasingly complicated to satisfy, has a substantial impact on people accessing the office.

The police do not normally put these requests in writing. It is an abuse. If they wrote it[,] it would be really easy to appeal against that and win. Sometimes they have put it in writing, and in those cases we appealed against it and we won. Most of the times they ask for this verbally, so that there is no written evidence for that, which makes it impossible for any lawyer to appeal. (Naga 20 Nov. 2018)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The AIDA report states that the lack of a registered address to provide to the police can be a problem for the issuance of residency permits as "some beneficiaries of international protection do not have a fixed address to provide" (ECRE Mar. 2018, 111). The same source adds that "[e]ven if it is possible to have a registered address at organisations’ address – a legal and not real domicile – the organisations [do] not always allow beneficiaries of protection to use their address" (ECRE Mar. 2018, 118). Similarly, the Naga representative stated the following:

When you apply for a new permit of stay, the police ask you to prove either that you are resident in the municipality, or that you live as a guest at someone else’s place within the municipality. They connect the renewal of your permit of stay to your dwelling condition. If you do not work and cannot pay a rent, or if nobody hosts you as a guest and declares it in a written document, the police will not renew your permit of stay. (Naga 20 Nov. 2018)

The Naga representative added the following:

Note that this is such a big problem that a black market with false declarations of hospitality has developed, and a substantial number of applicants solve the problem by buying a false declaration, paying up to 700 euros to overcome this obstacle which does not otherwise allow them to proceed with their practice concerning their permit of stay at the police office (renewal, issuing, conversion into another type of permit of stay). (Naga 20 Nov. 2018)

The Naga representative said that, in cases of renewal of the subsidiary protection status, police officers "common[ly]" ask applicants to provide a passport; if the applicant does not have a passport, the police will not renew the status (Naga 20 Nov. 2018). The same source explained that

[t]his too makes things hard for people who cannot have a passport either because they would be in danger if they applied for one in their consulates, or because their consulates do not issue passports. In these cases, it is very complicated for lawyers and operators to prove, case by case, that those people cannot obtain a passport, the procedure is long and it may leave people [for] longer periods of time without a valid permit of stay. (Naga 20 Nov. 2018)

Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Loss of Status

Citing Legislative Decree No. 251 of 2007, the Law Library of Congress states that "[r]efugees or foreigners admitted to subsidiary protection are subject to expulsion when they are considered a danger to state security, or to the public order or security after being convicted of a crime punishable by incarceration for four to ten years" (US Mar. 2016). The same sources adds that "[r]efugee status is subject to revocation by the Italian authorities when legal grounds to deny the status arise, facts have been presented erroneously or omitted by the requester, or false documentation has been produced" (US Mar. 2016).

The Naga representative stated that the permit of stay can be lost if the individual goes back to their country, "for short or long periods of time. In that case the police can start a procedure to take away [their] protection" (Naga 20 Nov. 2018). However, the same source added that "this is not the police's decision, but there is an office in charge of that, and no protection is taken away easily" (Naga 20 Nov. 2018).

The Law Library of Congress states:

Refugee status ceases under Italian law [Legislative Decree No. 251 of 2007] when refugees

  • voluntarily avail themselves again of the protection of their country of citizenship;
  • have lost their citizenship and voluntarily reacquire it;
  • acquire Italian citizenship or another citizenship and enjoy the protection of their new country;
  • voluntarily reestablish themselves in the country that they left or to which they had not returned for fear of persecution;
  • may no longer renounce the protection of their country of citizenship, because they no longer comply with the requirements that had allowed for the recognition of refugee status; or
  • return to the country in which they had their habitual residency (if they are stateless persons), because they no longer comply with the requirements that had allowed for the recognition of the refugee status. (US Mar. 2016)

Regarding the two last points, the Law Library of Congress adds that the stated grounds

do not apply when the refugees argue that there are overriding reasons arising from previous persecution of such nature that prompt them to reject the protection of their country of citizenship or, in the case of stateless persons, of the country in which they had their habitual residency.  

The change of circumstances may not be temporary and must be such as to eliminate the well-founded fear of persecution, and the serious humanitarian considerations that impede return to the country of origin must subsist. Cessation is declared on the basis of an individual evaluation of foreigners’ personal situations (US Mar. 2016)

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] Refugee.info in an information website created in partnership with international organizations including the International Rescue Committee, PeaceGeeks and Mercy Corps, with support from Google, Cisco, Microsoft and TripAdvisor (Mercy Corps 16 Mar. 2018). The webpresence aims to "provide refugees and asylum-seekers with clear information about conditions, legal procedures and rights, and integration" in various countries, including Italy, and collaborates with "partners, UN agencies, NGOs, governments, and refugees and asylum-seekers to make sure the information [it] provide[s] is as up-to-date and useful as possible" (Refugee.info n.d.c).

[2] Based in Milan, Naga is an organization that "facilitates access to legal aid for refugees in securing asylum, in gaining residence permits, for family reunification, the right to work, regularisation for children and marriage, and fight deportations" (Rights in Exile Programme n.d.).

[3] The main aims of Asilo in Europa (AE) "are to promote the development of a common understanding of the European dimension of asylum law, as well as to improve the exchange of information among NGOs that work in different countries" (Rights in Exile Programme n.d.).

[4] The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is funded by the European Programme for Integration and Migration and coordinated by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and "aims to provide up-to date information on asylum practice in 23 countries" within Europe (ECRE Mar. 2018, 2).

References

Asilo in Europa (AE). 22 November 2018. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.

European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). March 2018. Association for Legal Studies on Immigration. Country Report: Italy - 2017 Update. Asylum Information Database (AIDA). [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018]

The Guardian. 24 September 2018. Angela Giuffrida. "Italian Government Approves Salvini Bill Targeting Migrants." [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018]

Mercy Corps. 16 March 2018. "International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Google, Microsoft, Cisco and TripAdvisor Expand One-Stop Informational Portal for Refugees Under the Newly Formed Global Platform, Signpost." [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018]

Naga Associazione Volontaria di Assistenza Socio - Sanitaria e per i Diritti di Cittadini Stranieri, Rom e Sinti - Onlus (Naga). 20 November 2018. Correspondence from a representative of the Coordinamento Area Legale to the Research Directorate.

Politico. 25 September 2018. Giada Zampano. "Italian Government Adopts Measures to Narrow Asylum Rights." [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018]

Refugee.info. N.d.a. "Asylum in Italy: Applying for Asylum." [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018]

Refugee.info. N.d.b. "ID Documents and Residence Permits: Permessi di Soggiorno (Residence Permits)." [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018]

Refugee.info. N.d.c. "About Refugee.info." [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018]

Refugee.info. N.d.d. "ID Documents and Residence Permits: Renewing Your Permesso di Soggiorno." [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018]

Rights in Exile Programme. N.d. "Italy Pro Bono Directory." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018]

Reuters. 24 September 2018. Steve Scherer. "Italy to Narrow Asylum Rights in Clampdown on Immigration." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018]

United States (US). March 2016. Law Library of Congress. "Refugee Law and Policy: Italy." [Accessed 12 Nov. 2018]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Adjunct Professor of Political Science; Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration; Avvocati per niente; Borderline Sicilia; Casa della Carità; Comunità S. Egidio; Consiglio Italiano per i Rifugiati; Cooperativa sociale K-Pax; Fondazione Franco Verga; Gruppo Everyone; The Guardian; Italy – Embassy in Ottawa, Servizio centrale del sistema di protezione per richiedenti asilo e rifugiati; Lecturer in Sociology and Anthropology; News Deeply; Officine Corsare; Open Immigration; Politico; Programma integra; Reuters; Servizio dei Gesuiti per i Rifugiati; Ufficio Pastorale Migranti, Turin.

Internet sites, including: Bertelsmann Stiftung; Canestrini Law Firm; Cittalia – Fondazione Anci Ricerche; Council of Europe; Danish Refugee Council; ecoi.net; EU – European Asylum Support Office, European Migration Network; InfoMigrants; European Council on Refugees and Exiles; International Labour Organization – NATLEX; Italy – Instituto di Istruzione Superiore C. Marchesi, Ministro Dell'interno, Dipartimento Libertà Civili e Immigrazione, Polizia di Stato; Mosaico Refugees; National Contact Point for Italy; Open Society Foundations; REACH; Rights in Exile Programme; Swiss Refugee Council; UN – Refworld, UNICEF.