The Guardian | Published: September 24, 2018
Far-right leader’s decree would suspend asylum process for the ‘socially dangerous’
Italy’s far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, at a news conference in Rome after the cabinet approved a decree of measures on immigration. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters
Angela Giuffrida in Rome
A series of hardline measures that will see the Italian government abolish key forms of protection for migrants and make it easier for them to be deported has been approved by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet.
Drafted by Matteo Salvini, the far-right interior minister and leader of the League, the decree will also suspend the refugee application process of those who are considered “socially dangerous” or who have been convicted of a crime.
Salvini, who has blocked NGO rescue ships from Italian ports to cut the number of migrants arriving in the country by sea, said the bill was a “step forward to making Italy safer”.
He claimed it would also strengthen the fight against the mafia and people traffickers, give the police greater powers and “expel offenders and fake refugees”.
Parliament has 60 days to debate and modify the decree before it becomes law.
The plans include abolishing humanitarian protection, a form of protection for those not eligible for refugee status but who for various reason cannot be sent home, and replacing it with a special permits system that will limit eligibility to people such as victims of a natural disaster or those with a serious illness.
Salvini pledged last week to stop giving permits to “crafty migrants not escaping war”.
Christopher Hein, a professor of law and immigration policies at Luiss University in Rome, said the measures could have a dramatic impact on the lives of tens of thousands already in the country.
The majority of migrants who have arrived in Italy in recent years have been granted humanitarian protection status, which is valid for two years and entitles them to a residency permit and enables them to work.
“Far more people are on this permit than the number of recognised refugees – last year it was around 25% of all asylum seekers,” said Hein.
Salvini’s move may, however, also lead to an increase in the number of irregular migrants.
“If people do not have a chance to obtain this kind of protection, or they no longer make an attempt, or they get rejected, it does not mean that the next day they simply go home,” said Hein.
“The ultimate aim is to have no refugees at all in Italy through a combination of efforts: closure of seaports, criminalising migrant rescue NGOs, enhancing collaboration with the coastguard and now, with this decree, they target those who are already here, or who may come in future and not get any kind of protection – it is a deterrent measure.”
The plan to suspend the asylum requests of those considered “socially dangerous” could result in people being expelled on the basis of accusations of deviance rather than convictions.
The decree did not include measures against the Roma community, although Salvini said he was in talks with the mayors of major cities to ensure that all camps were closed.