UNHCR Italy Factsheet, June 2019

from UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Published on 30 Jun 2019 View Original

A new law decree came into force in mid-June, which could limit the disembarkation of refugees and migrants rescued at sea. UNHCR asked Parliament to amend it and prioritize rescue operations.

In June, 1,218 refugees and migrants reached Italian shores, the highest number of monthly sea arrivals in 2019 so far. Most sea arrivals in June departed from Tunisia.

Increasing numbers of land arrivals, including unaccompanied children, were reported travelling from Slovenia into the northern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.


80% *
Percentage of 2019 sea arrivals informed by UNHCR staff upon disembarkation
5,069 *
Referrals of sea arrivals with specific needs to appropriate services since January 2015
632 *
Monitoring visits to reception facilities since April 2013

Operational Context

  • A new law decree was approved by the Council of Ministers and came into force in mid- June. The new decree authorizes the Minister of the Interior to limit or prohibit the entry of non-military and non-governmental vessels in Italian territorial waters for reasons of public order and security. Furthermore, the decree introduces an administrative sanction of €10- 50,000 for shipmasters who do not follow the order not to enter Italian territorial waters, which can be extended also to the shipping company and the owner of the vessel. Furthermore, the vessel will be impounded in the event that it repeatedly disobeys the order not to enter territorial waters. The decree will have to be converted into law by Parliament within 60 days. UNHCR issued a press release asking the Government to review the decree, and Parliament to amend it, prioritizing refugee protection and rescue operations.

  • As of 30 June, 108,924 asylum-seekers and refugees were accommodated in reception facilities and hotspots across Italy. Approximately 76 per cent of them (82,597 persons) were asylum-seekers accommodated in first-line reception facilities, predominantly located in Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont and Campania. An additional 24 per cent (26,209 persons) were refugees, who are accommodated in second-line facilities belonging to the SIPROIMI network, most of which are located in Sicily, Latium, Apulia, Calabria, Emilia- Romagna, and Campania. The SIPROIMI network has a total capacity of 35,650. Furthermore, as of 30 June, 118 persons were accommodated in hotspots in Sicily.1 As of the end of the month, 87 provinces across Italy had published tenders for the management of asylum-seekers reception facilities in their respective territories, for a total of over 96,000 reception places, the vast majority of which are in smaller-size facilities accommodating up to 50 persons. Many reception providers decided not to apply to the recent tenders stating that the resources foreseen are insufficient to provide adequate services.

  • As of 30 June, 7,272 unaccompanied and separated children were accommodated in children reception facilities across Italy. The majority of unaccompanied and separated children are accommodated in Sicily (28 per cent), followed by Lombardy (11 per cent), Emilia-Romagna (9 per cent), and Friuli Venezia-Giulia (8 per cent). Most of them are boys (93 per cent) aged 17 years old.

  • Between 1 January and 30 June 2019, 18,047 new asylum applications were lodged in Italy, a 47 per cent decrease compared to the same period last year. First-time claimants more commonly originated from Pakistan (19 per cent), Nigeria (9 per cent), Bangladesh (7 per cent), Ukraine (5 per cent), El Salvador (5 per cent), Peru (5 per cent), Morocco (4 per cent), Senegal (4 per cent), Albania (4 per cent), and Venezuela (3 per cent).

  • In June, 1,218 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy by sea. This is the highest number of monthly sea arrivals this year so far, and corresponds to some 44 per cent of all refugees and migrants who reached Italian shores in the first half of 2019. The majority of persons reaching Italian shores in June departed from Tunisia (33 per cent of monthly sea arrivals), followed by Libya (28 per cent), Turkey (30 per cent), Algeria (6 per cent), and Greece (3 per cent). Most persons who departed from Tunisia were Tunisian nationals, but increasing numbers of Ivoirian nationals were also reported embarking from places along the Tunisian coast. New arrivals who departed from Libya in June mainly originate from western African countries and Bangladesh, while refugees and migrants departing from Greece and Turkey were predominantly Pakistani and Iraqi nationals. Between 1 January and 30 June, 2,779 persons arrived in Italy by sea, an 83 per cent decrease compared to the numbers of persons reaching Italian shores in the same period last year (16,577). Most refugees and migrants arriving by sea since the beginning of 2019 originated from Tunisia (21 per cent), Pakistan (15 per cent), Algeria (10 per cent), Iraq (9 per cent), Côte d'Ivoire (8 per cent), Bangladesh (7 per cent), Sudan (3 per cent), Islamic Republic of Iran (2 per cent), Morocco (2 per cent), and Guinea (2 per cent). For further information on sea arrivals in Italy, please refer to the Italy Sea Arrivals Dashboard – June 2019.

  • Various SAR operations took place in the Central Mediterranean in June, including by NGOs and national authorities. The NGO vessel Sea Watch 3 returned at sea on 9 June, but was impounded at the end of the month, after a stand-off regarding the disembarkation of 53 refugees and migrants it rescued off the Libyan coast on 12 June. The Sea Watch 3 refused to disembark rescued individuals in Libya, referring to the security and human rights situation in the country. Italian authorities prevented the vessel’s entry into Italian territorial waters. While 13 vulnerable individuals were medically evacuated to Italy, the remaining passengers – including unaccompanied children and persons with specific needs- remained on board the Sea Watch 3 stationed south of Lampedusa, just outside Italian territorial waters, between 14 and 26 June. On 20 June, UNHCR issued a press release asking European countries to allow disembarkation. On 26 June, the Sea Watch 3 entered Italian territorial waters despite the ban by the Italian Government. Eventually, on 29 June, in light of passengers’ deteriorating conditions, the Sea Watch 3 forced the bloc by the Italian authorities and entered the Lampedusa port, where the remaining rescued individuals disembarked. The Sea Watch 3 captain, Carola Rackete, was arrested and subsequently placed under house arrest in connection with investigations for resistance or violence against a war vessel, and for aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Furthermore, administrative sanctions provided for by the latest security decree were applied against the captain, the ship-owner, and the shipping company. A number of European countries agreed to receive new arrivals following disembarkation in Italy.

  • Another NGO vessel, the Open Arms, returned at sea in the Central Mediterranean at the end of June, after a six-month stop. On 30 June, it spotted a boat in distress with 42 refugees and migrants on board, and alerted the Italian Coast Guard, who proceeded to rescue the group taking them to Italy. The Italian Coast Guard, together with the Tax and Customs Police, were also involved in the rescue of 81 persons who departed from Zuwarah, Libya on board three different boats before being transferred onto a larger boat, and again on to a wooden vessel close to the shores of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

  • Increasing numbers of land arrivals, including unaccompanied children, were reported travelling from Slovenia into the northern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, where an average of 50 arrivals per day were recorded, with peaks of 100-150. NGOs estimate that some 3,000 refugees and migrants arrived by land in the area since the beginning of 2019. New arrivals mainly originate from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Algeria. In Trieste, reception facilities for asylum-seekers were at full capacity, thus individuals seeking international protection near the border areas were transferred to other provinces and regions in Italy, while other persons of concern reportedly found shelter in informal settlements.

  • In June, 135 vulnerable individuals were transferred from Lebanon to Italy in the context of the Humanitarian Corridors Programme. In 2019 so far, 205 persons were transferred to Italy from Lebanon and Ethiopia pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding on Humanitarian Corridors.

  • In Messina, Sicily, the local Municipality set up a public civil registry of asylum-seekers, enabling all asylum-seekers in the city to register, so to access municipal services on equal footing as citizens who are regularly registered.