| 1 October 2023, Sunday |

Italy passes tougher measures to deter migrant arrivals

The Italian government, which is dealing with an influx of migrants, enacted legislation on Monday to extend the period they may be held and ensure that more individuals who have no legal right to stay are returned, according to government sources.

The decision came after around 10,000 migrants arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa last week, undermining the credibility of right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who took office last year promising to reduce illegal immigration.

Meloni stated at the outset of a cabinet discussion on the situation that migrants awaiting repatriation should be imprisoned for six months, with the possibility of being extended to 18 months, up from three months presently.

“That will be all the time needed not only to make the necessary assessments, but also to proceed with the repatriation of those who do not qualify for international protection,” Meloni said in her introductory speech.

Government sources said the cabinet approved that measure shortly afterwards, as well as the creation of more detention centers in remote areas. Meloni said Italy needed to increase the capacity of such facilities as they had been weakened by “years of immigrations policies”.

Under Italian law, migrants facing repatriation can be held if they cannot be immediately expelled. Officials say a majority of migrants head to Italy for economic reasons and are therefore not eligible for asylum.

Past efforts to hold migrants have largely failed, with those detained repeatedly breaking out of centres and often heading straight to wealthier northern European countries.

  • Reuters