After leaving the hotspot, migrants who are not considered in need of protection are given a leaflet from the country and, in some cases, may be taken directly to a repatriation centre (CPR), where they can be detained for a maximum of 18 months. There are 8 CPRs in Italy, spread across different Regions: Bari, Brindisi, Caltanissetta, Turin, Rome, Trapani, and Macomer.

Once the identification procedure is complete, migrants who are allowed to apply for asylum are transferred to different reception centres where they receive first aid. There are 7 CARA [Reception centres for asylum seekers], located primarily in southern Italy: Isola Capo Rizzuto, Caltanissetta, Foggia, Brindisi, Bari, Mineo (Catania) and in Gradisca d’Isonzo; the latter is the only one in Northern Italy.

In 2013, following an increase in new arrivals, the Italian government broadened its reception system by creating the Emergency Reception Centres (CAS) that were intended to act as temporary settlements. However, in practice the CAS host the vast majority of migrants: 78% of all the asylum seekers currently present on Italian territory (map). Given their “exceptional” nature, the CAS are heterogeneous structures managed by different actors, such as social cooperatives and private enterprises. These are often suspected of neglecting basic migrants’ rights due to the frequently tragic conditions of the centres, including overcrowding and hygiene shortcomings. Besides which, CAS’s tend to be located in isolated or already marginalised areas.

Only a few migrants are admitted to the second-tier reception system (SPRAR), which is based on a so-called ‘integrated accommodation’ model and provide guests with many of the necessary tools for the recuperation of individual autonomy and integration in the context found upon arrival through different activities that are agreed upon with the different municipalities.

The presence of CAS’s at the regional level stems from the National Repair Plan approved during the Unified Conference on 10 July 2014. The Regional-State Agreement has established that asylum seekers should be distributed on national territory, taking into account the regional population, GDP, and the number of migrants already hosted in each region (Abruzzo excluded because of the earthquake). The same principle of territorial redistribution applies to asylum seekers at the regional level between the various municipalities.Prior to the last Decree-Law on Security and Immigration was approved (2018), the SPRAR system hosted not only refugees but also asylum seekers [see also “News in the Italian asylum system”]. This second level reception system is based on bottom-up reception experiences already in place since 1999, intended to provide personal pathways (language lessons, professional courses) to migrants while ensuring widespread action on the ground to foster the relationship between “new” and “old” citizens. Smaller and more widespread centres are preferred in this conception of reception centres, in which municipalities play a significant role. Crucially, the second reception system, based on smaller and more widespread structures in the territory, is currently the “only option in the field – in the reception chain – capable of guaranteeing certain standards of protection of rights’ for migrants” (Fabini et al, 2019, p. 8).

The new SPRAR system, now called SIPROIMI, currently involve 1,189 towns for a total of 844 projects. Unfortunately, the 2018 ddl established that the SPRAR-SIPROIMI system should now be aimed exclusively at refugees and unaccompanied foreign minors, meaning that CAS’s – originally born as “emergency” centres – are increasingly acting as basic facilities for the predominant number of asylum seekers.

Beyond these principal and official centres, since the establishment of the ‘hotspot approach’, informal settlements have developed both in open-cast situations and in disused buildings, especially along the northern Italian border areas (Rapporto di Medici Senza Frontiere, 2018). These settlements are marginalised spaces, characterised by deprivation, discomfort, and highly precarious living conditions. Their number is growing at a rapid rate, not only due to difficulties encountered by irregular migrants in crossing the northern border and to the increased number of refused asylum applications, but also due to the limited assistance received by refugees with a regular residence permit.   


Fabini, G. et al. (2019), Lungo i confini dell’accoglienza. Migranti e territori tra resistenze e dispositivi di controllo, Castel San Pietro Romano (RM):Manifestolibri. 

MSF-Medici Senza Frontiere (2018) Fuori campo. Insediamenti informali. Marginalità sociale, ostacoli all’accesso alle cure e ai beni essenziali per migranti e rifugiati http://fuoricampo.medicisenzafrontiere.it/Fuoricampo2018.pdf