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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Italy’s populists abolish residence permits on humanitarian grounds 

Matteo Salvini’s security decree was approved amidst criticism

A member of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescues a woman from a sinking boat as another lies dead on what is left of the deck in the Mediterranean Sea. AFP  
A member of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms rescues a woman from a sinking boat as another lies dead on what is left of the deck in the Mediterranean Sea. AFP  

A decree that wipes out residence permits on humanitarian grounds was approved on Wednesday by Italy’s populist government amidst criticism that it will push more migrants towards illegality.

Dubbed the “Salvini decree” – after the far-right League party leader, Matteo Salvini – the new law was ratified by a vote of confidence in parliament with 336 votes in favour and 249 against.

Among the law’s numerous contested items in the fields of immigration and security is the abolition of residence permits on humanitarian grounds and their replacement with temporary “special permits” accorded only in extreme circumstances including natural disasters, trafficking, domestic violence and heavy exploitation.

In parallel, the decree also extended the number of offenses that can result in the refusal or the repeal of international protection, including sexual violence, robbery, public violence and drug trafficking.

Italian authorities will also be able to legally hold asylum seekers awaiting repatriation for up to 180 days – rather than three months – in hotspots or other public facilities. A criminal conviction – even if not final – will result in immediate expulsion.

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The mayor of Macerata, a town known for its successful integration policies, was among the most vocal objectors of the legislation.

“This security decree is a tragedy,” Romano Carancini told local media. “We will abdicate the principles of our constitution and throw away the history of a country that, despite its difficulties and isolation, always demonstrated its ability to welcome and integrate.”

The provisions on migration are coupled with a range of populist security measures – including electronic bracelets for stalkers, the experimental use of tasers for traffic police, stricter sanctions for squatting and the introduction of the crime of the "harassing exercise of begging," punishable with sentences up to 6 months or 3 years if minors are involved.

Approvals on shops sales are also set to become a prerogative of auditors, in order to crack down on the so-called “ethnic businesses” – or shops owned by migrants. Mr Salvini had initially proposed an amendment to his security decree that would force "little ethnic shops" to close by 9 pm, arguing that foreign-owned grocery shops had become "meeting places for drunkards, pushers, hell-raisers."