ROME — Italy’s populist government approved a package of new migration measures Monday, aimed at making it more difficult for migrants to obtain asylum and humanitarian protection.
Under the legislation — which still needs parliamentary as well as presidential approval — migrants could have their asylum requests suspended and face immediate repatriation if they are considered “socially dangerous” or convicted of certain crimes, including drug dealing and sexual assault.
Another measure would more narrowly define who can attain humanitarian protection — which currently ensures a two-year permit to stay in Italy — for specific reasons. This would include migrants who have been victims of labor exploitation or human trafficking, those who need immediate medical assistance or those who have fled natural disasters in their country of origin. The definition for humanitarian protection has thus far been more broadly interpreted and may vary case to case.
The decree also doubles the amount of time migrants can spend in reception centers before being repatriated to 180 days.
One of the most controversial proposals would allow the government to revoke Italian citizenship from someone found guilty of international terrorism.
“This is a step forward to make Italy safer,” said Interior Minister Matteo Salvini — who had pushed the legislation forward — in a Facebook post immediately after the Cabinet’s approval, adding that the measures would help Italy “be stronger in the fight against the mafia and people smugglers, reduce the costs of uncontrolled immigration, [and] expel criminals and fake refugees more quickly.”
The proposals have been criticized by human rights groups as well as legal experts, who argue the legislation could run counter to the Italian constitution.
The group Refugees Welcome Italia called the Cabinet’s approval a “worrying step backward” that weakens rather than strengthens policies of local authorities who have favored integration and inclusion in recent years.
Salvini, also the leader of the right-wing League party, has brought a hard line to migration policies since taking office, including closing Italian ports to boats that rescue migrants on the Mediterranean.
He and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte defended the measures at a press conference following the Cabinet’s approval, arguing the legislation would align Italy with other European countries.
“These measures continue to guarantee full respect of humanitarian rights and are in line with the principles of our constitution,” Conte said.
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