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‘More rights and more humanity’: Italy overhauls anti-immigration security decree

An update to the anti-migrant "security decree" introduced by former interior minister Matteo Salvini reinstates humanitarian protection for migrants and toughens punishments for violent and mafia-related crime.

'More rights and more humanity': Italy overhauls anti-immigration security decree
Migrants from Libya and east Africa pray on board the Sea-Watch rescue ship off the coast of Sicily. Photo: AFP

The changes mean it is again possible for refugees and migrants arriving in Italy to apply for humanitarian protection or obtain work permits.

The government has also cut the time needed for Italian citizenship applications to be processed down from four years to three, Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reports – though the timeframe was two years before the so-called “Salvini decree” became law in 2018.
 
“Tonight a wall comes down in Italy. We took a while, a bit too long, but now Salvini's so-called 'security decrees' are no longer,” Peppe Provenzano, Minister for the South with the co-ruling Democratic Party (PD) said. adding. “Onward towards a country with more right and more humanity”.
 
 
“The Council of Ministers has approved the immigration decree. The Salvini decrees are finally overturned and work is being done on healthy integration, respecting human rights. Security and hospitality are not incompatible but are two fundamental values ​​to be defended”. Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri tweeted.
 
Italy's current centre-left coalition government had pledged on coming to power last year that it would overhaul the former minister's rules, which included fines of up to one million euros for the crew of charity ships rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean.
 
Charities carrying out rescues in line with maritime law and in coordination with national authorities will no longer be fined.
 
However any rescue ships deemed to be operating illegally can be punished with fines of between 10,000 and 50,000 euros, with the possibility of up to two years in prison for crew members.

 
Salvini, head of the right-wing populist League, made introducing anti-migration laws a priority when he came into government with his “Italians first” and “closed ports” messages.
 
“The government is opening doors and ports to illegal migrants,” Salvini tweeted, adding: “Italy deserves better”.
 
Protests in Rome against salvini's 2018 security decree. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
 
He ended Italy's two-year “humanitarian protection” residency permits, which were approved for 25 percent of asylum seekers in 2017.
 
Asylum was only granted to those who risked being tortured if repatriated. Protection will now be extended to those who risk being subjected to inhuman
or degrading treatment, or having their right to private and family life violated.
 
The new law also reintroduces the use of smaller reception and integration centres for hosting refugees, which Salvini had scrapped. They are widely thought to be more effective than the large centres now being used.
 
 
Migrants granted permits to stay will have the possibility to convert them into work permits, the prime minister's office said.
 
However, notably the new decree does not make allowances for second-generation migrants born in Italy, who have long campaigned for the right to apply for (or be automatically granted) Italian citizenship before they turn 18.
 
 
Italy's new security decree also provides stiffer penalties for mafia-related crime and violent crimes.
 
It includes tougher punishments for assault, increasing from a maximum fine of 309 euros to 2000 euros and imprisonment.
 
It also increases the maximum prison term for anyone found guilty of “facilitating communications with the outside world” for mafia members imprisoned under Italy's tough '41bis' regime, which completely isolates mobsters to stop them running their empires from behind bars.
 
 

Member comments

  1. Inconvenient truths.
    Almost 800.000 immigrants not from the war but for economic reasons.
    250.000 immigrants committed crimes.40% rapes.
    5 million Italian unemployed.
    5 million living at the poverty level.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Elections: Italy’s Lampedusa residents ‘left behind’ by migration focus

Italy's politicians are visiting Lampedusa to promise an end to migrant arrivals, but many living on the island say their other concerns go unheard.

Elections: Italy's Lampedusa residents 'left behind' by migration focus

“It’s just words, words,” complains Pino D’Aietti, who like many residents of the tiny island of Lampedusa feels abandoned by Italy’s politicians – except when a surge in migrant arrivals makes the headlines.

The 78-year-old retired plumber is sitting outside a restaurant on the island, where anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini has spent the past two days as part of his campaign for upcoming elections on September 25th.

Located between Sicily and Tunisia, Lampedusa is known for its beaches and turquoise waters, but also as the landing point for thousands of migrants on boats from north Africa.

On Thursday, Salvini visited the island’s migrant reception centre where as many as 1,500 mostly young men were packed in a facility meant for 350.

But while the League leader makes immigration the cornerstone of his election campaign, there is a sense of disillusionment here; an island of just 6,000 residents out in the middle of the Mediterranean.

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

“We have the most expensive fuel, the (water) purifier hasn’t worked for a long time, there is no hospital,” railed D’Aietti, as tourists in swimsuits browsed shops nearby.

“We are spare parts. When the tourists go, the rubbish we eat! It’s disgusting. And who defends us?”

League Leader Matteo Salvini enjoys a boat ride while visiting the southern Italian Pelagie Island of Lampedusa for his election campaign on August 5th, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

The lack of healthcare is a recurrent theme.

“We have specialists and that’s it. For anything else we have to go onto the mainland,” said 58-year-old Maria Garito.

Mayor Filippo Mannino admits healthcare is a problem, but tells AFP: “The municipality has limited means, it is up to the state to take charge.”

READ ALSO: Russia denies interfering in Italy’s elections

He has also called for more help from Rome – and the European Union – to help manage the number of migrants, which often becomes unmanageable in the summer months when calmer seas cause a surge in new arrivals.

Not far from the town hall, at the end of an isolated road, is the so-called hotspot, the immigration reception centre.

It is protected by steel gates, but those inside can be seen whiling away the hours in a few shady spots.

The government last week agreed to lay on a special ferry to transfer migrants three times a week to Sicily, and AFP reporters this week saw hundreds boarding a boat.

People at a migrant processing centre on the island of Lampedusa on August 4th, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Few get to sample the delights of Lampedusa – unlike Salvini, who was pictured in his swimsuit in a pleasure boat off the island on Friday.

Although the locals prefer not to talk about migrants, prejudice is an issue here.

Ibrahima Mbaye, a 43-year-old Senegalese man who arrived here on a French visa three years ago, said “there are good people but half the people are racist, you feel it”.

He has been working as a fisherman, but says it has not been easy – and nor is it for those who arrive illegally.

“They think that Italy is their future, but when they arrive they’re disappointed. They understand that it’s not easy to earn money,” he told AFP.

As for the tourists on holiday on Lampedusa, many are either unaware or willing to turn a blind eye.

“We read about it in the newspapers but we really don’t feel it,” said fifty-something Dino, who has been coming here every summer for ten years.

The two faces of Lampedusa “are two separate things”, he adds.

By AFP’s Clément Melki

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