The centre-left government of Italy has announced plans to ditch laws criminalising undocumented illegal immigrants by direct decree. Opponents have already predicted an “invasion”.
Having been criminalised by Silvio Berlusconi’s government back in 2009, and in spite of the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe, the new law regarding illegal immigrants will be put before the Council of Ministers next week, reports The Local.
Leading members of the anti-mass migration Northern League have reacted angrily to the proposed reform. Roberto Maroni, President of Lombardy, told his Twitter followers to “prepare for an invasion”.
— Roberto Maroni (@RobertoMaroni_) January 8, 2016
The leader of the Northern League, Matteo Salvini used Facebook to promise his party would man the barricades in parliament and hold a referendum against the move, asking:
“Can’t they see what’s happening in the world? It’s crazy!”
The bill will change the existing law such that those migrants either entering Italy illegally or overstaying a visa will no longer face criminal proceedings or fines of up to €10,000. Proponents of the move say it will address aspects of the law which have been criticised for stigmatising migrants rendering them vulnerable to exploitation.
For example, anti-mafia prosecutor Franco Roberto believes the current law “hinders investigations”. He has argued that the new move will in fact help tackle illegal immigration as authorities should be better able to identify human traffickers.
The proposed reform to the Consolidated Immigration Act 1998 (amended in 2009) does not remove all sanctions faced by illegal immigrants, as repatriation will still be available to authorities. In addition prison sentences will still be imposed on those found to be running people smuggling operations.
The bill, supported by members of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party and Beppe Grillo’s populist Five Star Movement, forms part of wider attempts to reduce prison overcrowding in general. It is also said to offer migrants better protection against being exploited by employers on the black-market.