Asylum seekers in Italy will have to pay 4,938 euros ($5,259) to avoid detention while their request for protection is being processed, the government said on Friday, in a measure apparently aimed at deterring migrants.
Facing a surge in new arrivals, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s coalition announced this week that it would increase the number of detention centers around the country to hold migrants ahead of their possible repatriation.
It also said that it would increase the amount of time people could be detained to 18 months from three months.
At present migrants to Italy who apply for asylum are free to move within the country while their application is reviewed, but the government decree published on Friday said they would have to pay a type of bail to stave off the threat of detention.
Human rights groups attacked the move.
“It is ridiculous. Who has got 5,000 euros?” said Anna Brambilla, a lawyer and member of the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) that focuses on migrant rights.
“They are looking to make detention for migrants the norm, but it is hard to see how they can do that,” she told Reuters.
At present there are 10 repatriation centres in Italy, which have a current capacity of just 619. Meloni has said she wants to at least double the number, and place one in each of the country’s 20 regions.
However, many regional presidents and town mayors from across the political spectrum have said they do not want to host new centers and questioned the efficiency of a mass lock-up.
“We are talking about emptying the sea with a bucket,” said Luca Zaia, the head of the northern Veneto region and a senior member of the coalition League party, traditionally anti-migrant.