Italian lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to controversial legislation that makes illegal immigration a punishable offence and allows mayors to form civilian anti-crime patrols in towns and cities. The bill was approved by 157 votes for to 124 against, in the upper house Senate. The lower house Chamber of Deputies had already approved the package in May. A provision to triple the time illegal immigrants can be detained in holding centres, is also included in the package which is now law.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government relied on confidence votes in both houses of parliament to ensure approval of the measures which are strongly supported by the ruling coalition’s junior partner, the anti-immigration Northern League party. Italy’s centre-left opposition, the Catholic Church and human rights activists have slammed what they say is the criminalisation of would-be immigrants.
The law won’t help defend Italian citizens from crime and “seriously violates the civil rights of immigrants whose work is indispensable to keep thousands of businesses going,” said leading centre-left Democratic Party senator, Anna Finocchiaro. But in his response Maurizio Gasparri from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party said the government “is proud” of achieving an objective which helps fulfill promises to “combat crime”. Under the provisions, people entering Italy without permission face fines of up to 10,000 euros (14,084 dollars), while anyone renting housing to an illegal immigrant faces up to three years in prison. Critics also allege the citizen-patrols would amount to vigilante groups who are likely to harass foreigners. But Interior Minister and senior Northern League official, Roberto Maroni, has said the patrols would mostly consist of unarmed, retired police officers.
Many immigrants are afraid to seek medical care in Italy because they fear they will be expelled from the country, according to a survey by the Italian-based human rights group EveryOne. The group’s survey was released on Thursday as the Italian parliament approved a law making illegal immigration a crime.
“Reports have confirmed the recent sharp drop in the number of migrants seeking medical care for serious illnesses,” said Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, co-presidents of the EveryOne Group in a media statement.
The new Italian law provides for anti-crime patrols in towns and cities and triples the amount of time illegal immigrants can be detained in holding centres from two to six months. Apart from doctors and school principals, every one is required under the law to report illegal migrants to the authorities.
The denial of medical care and fear among migrants is similar in the UK, maybe that is why the fascism in Italy goes unremarked upon by the Neoliberal EU establishment, it is something they really rather admire.