Italy narrows asylum rights in new clampdown on immigration
Italy's nationalist government approved a bill in the upper house of parliament on Thursday that aims to reduce the number of migrants who can claim some form of asylum and curb integration efforts.
Italy‘s nationalist government approved a bill in the upper house of parliament on Thursday that aims to reduce the number of migrants who can claim some form of asylum and curb integration efforts.
The bill, which still needs the approval of the lower house to become law, was drawn up after a shipwreck off southern Italy in February that killed more than 90 migrants.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has said the legislation, which includes tougher jail terms for human smugglers, is intended to dissuade people from putting their trust in traffickers and trying to reach Italy illegally.
Critics say the bill is repressive and will do nothing to halt the flow of migrants seeking a better life in Europe, but will instead force ever more newcomers into illegality.
Among the most contested measures is a decision to eliminate “special protection” residency permits that authorities can offer migrants who don’t qualify for asylum, but who face humanitarian risks back home, or have family ties in Italy.
The government said the system was being abused, noting that in 2022 authorities had handed out 10,506 special protection permits against 7,494 permits offering refugee status and 7,039 that granted a separate form of international protection.
The bill also halts state-funded Italian language courses and eliminates legal advice services for migrants hosted in official reception centres.
Italy has seen a recent surge in arrivals by boat migrants, with 34,715 people reaching the country from Jan. 1- April 19, against 8,669 in the same period last year, alarming Meloni, who took office in 2022 promising to reduce migrant flows.
Earlier this week, Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida said Italians were at risk of “ethnic replacement”, drawing criticism from centre-left parties who accused him of promoting white supremacy – a charge he has rejected.
“Why if you are enemies of illegal immigration are you doing all you can to push people into illegality,” said Ivan Scalfarotto, a senator with the centrist Italia Viva party.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alex Richardson)