Naples, Italy – Dozens of migrants and refugees protested on Tuesday against a decision that will see them lose their right to live in migrant reception centres, leaving them homeless and jeopardising their asylum applications.
The government issued notices to asylum seekers living in four migrant centres, announcing its intention to expel them because they were absent when police performed checks on August 13.
In Naples, asylum seekers hosted in centres have to sign in every night and comply with a 9pm curfew. But up until last week, the regulation had not been enforced. While it is not a nationwide rule, it is applied in other cities as well.
The decision is likely to have affected at least 100 people.
According to Francesco Priore, a lawyer at the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration, a total of 146 appeals were filed, but some migrants may already be living elsewhere.
It was not the case for Max, a 19-year-old from Ghana, who told Al Jazeera he just popped out to get some snacks when the police went into the centre. Upon his return, it was too late to be counted in.
“Two or three days later, they brought a letter with the names of people who should leave,” said Max, who gave only his first name. “They want to put us in the street with nowhere to go.”
He said he’s been waiting for an answer from the asylum commission for more than eight months after more than two years in Italy.
Often privately run, such centres have become the most common housing arrangement for asylum seekers waiting for an answer on their application. This can take upwards of two years.
While centres that do operate well exist, the system has been prone to abuse and mismanagement. Some facilities have even been investigated for mafia infiltration.
As part of a crackdown on migration that has included measures against boats rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced spending cuts for asylum-seeker reception facilities.
In Vasto near Naples’ central train station where the centres are located, some citizens have voiced concerns about squalor, drug traffickers and street sellers – many of whom are migrants.
One of those vendors, Cisse Elhadji Diebel, a Senegalese national, was shot and wounded in the leg earlier this month as violent attacks on minorities escalate across the country.
Priore said the decision to kick people out of the centres could have repercussions on the application for international protection by those waiting to see the asylum commission, which sends all communication to the applicants’ place of residence.
“If the applicant is not available for the interview, he could see his application judged solely on the base of the first declarations made,” Priore said.
The government was not available for comment by the time of publication.
Associations opposing the government’s crackdown on migration argue this could be a testing ground for a new policy to come.
“It’s creating chaos which will then lead to further repression,” said Pierluigi Umbriano of the anti-racist network Associazione 3 Febbraio.
“We will certainly see the situation exploited at the political level. We will hear that reception centres have been cleared, that migrants create problems on the street, with promises to send them away. There will be even more discontent,” Umbriano told Al Jazeera.
Meanwhile, Boro, 28, a guest of one of the centres who found work in a restaurant, said he decided to quit after what happened.
“I can’t do my evening shift or I would risk being kicked out,” he said.