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22nd Feb 2020

Italy risks legal battle over expulsion of EU citizens

  • Roma people protesting against fingerprinting, which is part of the new Italian security package. (Photo: European Commission)

The Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi risks a legal battle with the European Commission over the rules on the automatic expulsion of EU citizens, a part of the so-called security package introduced by Rome earlier this year.

EU commissioner Jacques Barrot, in charge of home affairs and justice, stated on Tuesday (23 September) that the controversial piece of law "poses problems of compatibility with community law".

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If it is not changed shortly, he warned, the commission "would launch infringement proceedings as provided for by the [EU] treaty".

The decision comes weeks after Italy adopted a set of measures designed to deal with the "exceptional and persistent influx" of irregular immigrants and a sharp rise in crime blamed on foreign nationals.

Under the package, undocumented migration is considered a criminal offence punishable by six months to four years in prison, while the property rented to an immigrant without papers can be confiscated.

In addition, the interior ministry announced plans to increase the number of intake places throughout the country - labelled "centres for identification and expulsion".

Interior minister Roberto Maroni - a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party - is the main figure behind the security package.

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.

The Italian government argues that foreigners, and Roma migrants in particular, are a main cause of increased street crime.

The Berlusconi government has also found itself the target of heavy criticism 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.

However, the European Commission stated earlier this month that no EU principles of human rights protection or non-discrimination were being violated.

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