15th Jun 2021

Italy extends state of emergency over immigration

The Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi is facing strong criticism from the country's opposition over the declaration of a national state of emergency to deal with the "exceptional and persistent influx" of irregular immigrants.

The controversial measure was announced on Friday (25 July), with interior minister Roberto Maroni saying it was aimed at "intensifying efforts to combat and control the [immigration] phenomenon."

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  • Italy's response to immigration is drawing widespread criticism. (Photo: European Commission)

As part of the move, the interior ministry plans to increase the number of intake places throughout the country - labelled "centres for identification and expulsion".

The decision came shortly after Italy passed another controversial piece of law that would make undocumented migration a criminal offence punishable by six months to four years in prison. The law also allows that property rented to such an immigrant can be confiscated.

The country's centre-left opposition political parties attacked the state of emergency, arguing it would result in "confusion and alarm" and boost xenophobic sentiment across the country.

They called on minister Maroni - a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party - to defend the new measures before the parliament on Tuesday (29 July).

According to media reports citing interior ministry data, some 10,600 undocumented migrants entered Italy in the first half of 2008 - a figure twice as high as during the same period in 2007. Other media reports say that 350 clandestine immigrants landed in Italy on Saturday (26 July).

The state of emergency was first introduced by the previous government of Romano Prodi in 2002, but earlier this year, the measure was restricted to three southern regions of Sicily, Apulia and Calabria.

In June, the Berlusconi government also found itself under heavy criticism also for plans to conduct a census, under which all Roma people, including children, would be fingerprinted. Left critics of the move compared it to the policies of Benito Mussolini, the country's fascist leader during the second world war.

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