CITTALIA- SPRAR – Sistema di protezione per richiedenti asilo e rifugiati (System of Protection for Asylum Seekers and Refugees )


In 2014, more than 170,000 refugees and migrants managed to make it to the Italian coast and almost 65,000 requests for international protection were received. Since 2008, following the first North African emergency (2008), the events associated with the Arab Spring (2011) and the outbreak and worsening of old and new conflicts in numerous territories in North Africa and the Middle East (2013-2014), there has been an increase in the number of refugees arriving. This trend became acute in 2014: the monthly figure of boats landing increased continuously from January to September, when they reached a peak of 26,107.

In the following months, the number of refugees and migrants reaching the Italian coast by sea fell slightly, although totals for each month were still in excess of 6,000 (December 2014). In the first few months of 2015, the numbers arriving were greater than in 2014, exceeding the same month of the previous year by more than 1,000 per month. As of 14 September 2015, approximately 121,500 migrants have reached Italy, primarily Eritreans, Nigerians, Somalis, Sudanese and Syrians.

Given these arrivals, there were almost 65,000 requests for international protection submitted in Italy, representing a significant increase over 2013, which saw approximately 27,000 requests. The majority of  requests were submitted by males (92.3%), a percentage higher than the previous year (86.3%). A total of 2,584 unaccompanied minors submitted requests for international protection in 2014, a number three times higher than the 2013 figure. If we look, however, at the first five months of 2015, approximately 25,000 requests for international protection were filed, almost all by men (90%), while the vast majority of asylum seekers (64%) are of African origin (with the top three countries being Nigeria, Gambia and Senegal), followed by those of Asian (24%) and European (11%) origin.

Description of the initiative

SPRAR was created under law no. 189 in 2002 and consists of a network of local authorities that set up and run reception projects for people forced to migrate.  It draws, within the limits of available resources, upon the  National Fund for Asylum policies and services managed by the Interior Ministry and from Regional budget allocations.

At a local level local authorities, with the valued support of the third sector, guarantee an “integrated reception” that goes well beyond the mere provision of board and lodging, and  includes orientation measures, legal and social assistance as well as the development of personalised programmes for the social-economic integration of individuals.

SPRAR’s main objective is to take responsibility for those individuals accepted into the system and to provide them with personalised programmes to help them (re)acquire self autonomy, and to take part in and integrate effectively within Italian society, in terms of finding employment and housing, of access to local services, of social life and of child education.

Implementation of the initiative


  • The Interior Ministry and local authorities, as part of a multilevel system of governance.
  • The synergies existing at a local level with the so called “managing bodies”, members of the third sector – associations, NGOs, and co-operatives -which make an essential contribution to the success of projects.

    Local authorities and bodies, in partnership with the third sector, set up and operate reception projects in their areas, applying SPRAR guidelines and standards while taking local factors and conditions into account. Local authorities can, depending on the type, capability and level of competence of local actors as well as on the resources (professional, organisational or economic) available to them, choose the type of reception facilities they can offer and the sort of persons they can best take responsibility for. For this reason projects can be aimed at individual adults and two parent families (the so-called “ordinary category”), or at single parent families, unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, victims of torture and those persons in need of constant care or with physical or psychological problems (classified as “vulnerable categories”). Special projects are provided for those people whose vulnerability results from problems of mental health. In any case, all those being cared for under the scheme are accepted on a temporary basis, and this is fundamental given that the ultimate objective is to give them self – autonomy and integrate them in society. Facilities offered by SPRAR – which tend to be either apartments or small to medium sized  accommodation centres, have a social-educational nature and must never be considered as part of the  health service facilities.

Resources dedicated to the initiative

The SPRAR system is supported by the National Fund for Asylum Policies and Services (FNPSA), which places specific ordinary resources at the disposal of SPRAR activities. The Ministry of Interior acts as institutional guarantor, delegating the operational aspects to ANCI, by establishing the Central Service, to be managed by the National Association of  Italian Municipalities (ANCI).

In the 2014 the financial sources amounted to 250 million euros for the 20,000 reception places


Number of refugees reached by the initiative: In the course of 2014, the total number of individuals accommodated by the SPRAR network was 22,961, of whom 61% were applicants for international protection, 15% had been granted humanitarian protection, 13% had been granted subsidiary protection and 11% had been granted refugee status. More than 40% of the persons registered regionally were concentrated in Lazio (22.6% of the national total) and in Sicily (19.7%), followed by Apulia (8.8%) and Calabria (84%). 5,855 individuals left reception centres: 31.9% moved onto an advanced socioeconomic integration programme, designed to ensure the acquisition of tools intended to support social inclusion, 32.8% left the reception system at their own initiative, while 30.1% of individuals assisted had the time-limits for reception services expire (according to the SPRAR Guidelines).

Coordination of the protection system is guaranteed by the Central Service, which is an organisation set up at the initiative of the Interior Ministry with its operational aspects entrusted to ANCI (National Association of Local Authorities) under law no. 189 of 2002. The Central Service has responsibilities in the fields of information, promoting initiatives, and providing consultancy and technical assistance to local authorities, as well as for monitoring the presence of asylum seekers and of those already granted international protection status within the country. In particular, the Central Service:

  • Manages the databank containing information on activities and services provided at a local level, collecting information regarding the reception, activation of transfer procedures and monitoring of the presence of beneficiaries and of the services provided throughout the country.
  • Assists local authorities in organising and managing “integrated reception” services, as well as in administrative procedures.
  • Provides consultancy and support to local authorities in various fields of activity to achieve “global responsibility” for everyone accepted into the system: measures of a psycho-social nature, providing legal assistance and guidance as well as programmes for socio-economic integration in society.
  • Promote the setting up of local networks and regional co-ordination.
  • Manages the training and up-dating of local operators, also producing means for operational support and making possible an exchange and comparison dynamic.
  • Promotes projects aimed at strengthening the performance of the System.
  • Supports ANCI in its role as the delegated authority for the management of the European Fund for Refugees (EFR), also with a view to creating a virtuous link between planning at European level and day-to-day reception activities. – Supports the assistance, information and guidance services activated within government frontline reception centres (as per Art. 11 of DPR 303/2004);
  • Draws up policy papers, analysis documents regarding the law, studies, research, guides and other materials of an operative nature.
  • Produces data and statistics for studies, research and reports. – Ensures a wide distribution of information about the Protection System through various means of communication.

Critical success factors

  • the public nature of the resources made available and the bodies with political responsibility for reception services, namely the Ministry of the Interior and local authority institutions, according a multi-level governance model;
  • the synergies available locally with so-called managing bodies, voluntary sector organisations – associations, NGOs, cooperatives that make an essential contribution to the implentation of the various interventions;
  • the decentralisation of the ‘integrated reception’ actions, throughout Italy;
  • the promotion and development of stable, solid and interactive local networks, with the involvement of all stakeholders and priority
  • partners in order to ensure the success of the reception, protection and integration measures implemented for indivduals
  • who are seeking or have been granted international protection;
  • the voluntary participation of local institutions in the network of reception projects;
  • the reinforcement (or implementation) of local services, designed to profi t the entire community, both indigenous and migrant..

Biggest obstacles

  • Insufficiency of funded places for the reception of the asylum seekers and refugees;
  • Too long time in examination of international protection requests by the territorial commissions,
  • Weakness of the local welfare state system (outside the SPRAR reception projects),
  • Misinformation through public media contributes to the increase of racism based on fear thus making it difficult to build an intercultural dialogue among people.

Description of the organisation

CITTALIA – Fondazione ANCI Ricerche is the research centre of  italian association of  municipalities. Set up in 2008, the Foundation works in the area of welfare and society and comprises the Central service (Servizio centrale), the coordination body of  the SPRAR.

SPRAR is the italian protection system for asylum seekers and refugees. The SPRAR system was created  under law no. 189 of  2002 and is based on the collaboration between different levels of government (The Interior Ministry, ANCI – Italian association of municipalities and local authorities, with the involvement of  NGO’s and associations.

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