Asylum rights: President\’s reminder on Italy\’s obligations

Dec 17 2009


Florence, December 17 – Italy’s obligation to grant asylum to refugees is a binding international requirement, not a European imposition, the country’s president Giorgio Napolitano said on Thursday.

Discussing Italy’s relationship to the European Union, Napolitano said the bloc’s lawmakers had the power to impose regulation in some policy areas, such as immigration. ”But the right to asylum is a fundamental principle guaranteed by international conventions,” he recalled.

Napolitano admitted that the issues of asylum and immigration, two entirely separate areas, were often confused in the public mind and warned this could be dangerous.

”There is often strong controversy, tension and various different drives over European policy in Italy but we must not fall into the trap of thinking Europe is responsible for everything,” he said. The president’s comments came on the same day that Italy’s asylum support system, SPRAR, issued its annual report.

SPRAR, run jointly by the interior ministry, municipal authorities and the not-for-profit sector, does not vet asylum claims but provides practical assistance and accommodation to asylum seekers. The study by the research unit of the National Association of Municipal Councils (ANCI), reported a 34% rise in the number of people accommodated by SPRAR last year, up to 8,412 from 6,284 people in 2007. The achievements of SPRAR, which was launched in 2001, were praised by ANCI President and Turin Mayor Sergio Chiamparino but he said greater efforts were needed.

”Although the system is working well and has been recognized for its good practice at an international level, it is not yet sufficient,” he said at the report’s presentation. ”In 2008, there were around 1500 people recognized as refugees who were not accommodated by the system.

”The cooperation underlying the scheme should be extended, in part through further resources, so that it is able to meet all demands for accommodation and protection”. SPRAR Director Daniela Dicapua agreed, saying that ”despite the extra number of beds, important areas are still uncovered”. She called for ”an optimization of efforts and resources in order to bring together and coordinate national programs and the dozens of local activities”.

The report noted that those assisted by SPAR were accommodated at over 4,388 different sites, part of 114 projects across Italy involving 101 municipal councils and 100 charities or not-for-profit organizations.

Nearly two-thirds of those assisted were men, and around 13% were minors, it found. Those using the system were from a variety of countries, with the greatest number from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Iraq, said the report.(ANSA)

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