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Italy: Measures to Fight Against Illegal Immigration Bolstered

(Mar. 29, 2017) On February 18, 2017, new legislation on the fight against illegal immigration entered into effect in Italy. (Decree Law No. 13 of February 17, 2017, Urgent Provisions for the Acceleration of International Protection Procedures and for the Fight Against Illegal Immigration (D.L. No. 13), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)

More Efficient Handling of Non-EU Citizens

The new legislation provides for accelerated procedures to identify and define the legal situation of non-European Union citizens and to fight illegal immigration and the trafficking of migrants. (D.L. No. 13, art. 15(1).)  In accordance with EU legislation, the director of Italy’s National Central Police for Crime Prevention under the Ministry of the Interior, after consultation with the Italian Committee for Strategic Analysis of Anti-Terrorism, has the authority to adopt a decision to reject the entry of a migrant from outside the EU into the national territory.  (Id. art. 15(1).)

To better identify non-EU citizens under international protection, EU residence permits issued for long-term residence to foreigners who are beneficiaries of international protection must contain the phrase “international protection recognized by [name of the state] on [date].” (Id. art. 9(1)(a)(1).)  Pursuant to EU legislation, should foreigners holding these residence permits become subject to removal procedures, the EU states that have recognized such permits must implement removal procedures after consultation with the EU state that originally issued the permit.  (Id. art. 8(1)(b)(2).)

When due to force majeure it is not possible to implement the repatriation of foreigners, judicial authorities must order the restoration of detention for the time strictly necessary to carry out the expulsion order.  (Id. art. 19(2)(b).)   Detention centers must be located outside urban areas and must be furnished with appropriate public facilities and structures to ensure respect for the human dignity and personal freedom of the persons subject to removal procedures.  (Id. art. 19(3).)

The new legislation also contains measures to strengthen cooperative activities between Italian government agencies that administer the country’s Automatized Information System and the Italian Automatized Fingerprints Identification System (i.e., the Ministry of the Interior’s Public Security Department and the Civil Liberties and Immigration Department, respectively) and the Schengen Information System in order to eliminate illegal immigration.  (Id. art. 18(1).)  The Schengen Information System “is a highly efficient large-scale information system that supports external border control and law enforcement cooperation” in the 26 European States that comprise the Schengen Area.  (Schengen Information System, European Commission website (last updated Mar. 21, 2017).)

Additionally, measures are included for the identification of foreign citizens found to be in an “irregular situation” in the national territory or who are rescued  at sea.  (D.L. No. 13, art. 17(1). )  

New Judicial Units to Review Immigration Cases 

The legislation creates specialized judicial units, ascribed to the ordinary tribunals in several Italian cities most affected by recent immigration, for handling immigration cases.  (Id. art. 1(1).)  The national Superior School of Magistrates appoints judges to the specialized units from among magistrates who enjoy specific competences in the field of immigration.  (Id. art. 2(1).)  The Superior School of Magistrates must organize courses and programs specialized in immigration according to the criteria established in the new legislation.  (Id. art. 2(1).)  One of these criteria is that applicants have knowledge of the English language.  The specialized unit judges must also comply with continuing legal education requirements.  (Id.)

Specialized units review controversies related to:

(a) the non-recognition of the right of residence in Italy of other EU nations’ citizens or their relatives;

(b) appeals against decisions on expulsion, for public security reasons, affecting non-Italian EU citizens or their relatives;

(c) the recognition of the right to international protection in procedures in which the respective prefect (questore, a city’s administrative head) orders the detention or extension of detention of a requester of international protection;

(d) the recognition of humanitarian protection;

(e) the denial of authorization for family reunification and of a residence permit based on that ground; and

(f) establishment of the status of statelessness.  (Id. art. 3(1) & (2).) 

Procedural Provisions for Immigration Cases 

Under the new legislation, an immigration hearing must be recorded through audiovisual means and transcribed into the Italian language through available voice recognition systems.  (Id. art. 6(1)(c).)  The court-appointed interpreter must verify the accuracy of the transcription.  (Id. art. 6(1)(c).)  A copy of the recorded transcript and the verbal transcription must be kept for a minimum of three years, a computer filing must be sent to the Ministry of the Interior, and a copy of the transcript in the Italian language must also be provided to anyone who requests international protection.  (Id. art. 6(3) & (4).)  The law also contains procedural provisions regulating the implementation of decisions issued as a result of immigration proceedings.  (Id. art. 6(4)-(18).)

In agreement with local communes, prefects must promote initiatives that can be used by requesters of international protection, on a voluntary basis, in social activities of benefit to the community, while the requesters are awaiting an appeal decision. (Id. art. 8(1)(d).)  The requester of international protection must remain at a detention center awaiting the execution of an expulsion or refoulement order when there are reasonable grounds to believe that a judicial appeal has been presented only to delay or frustrate the enforcement of such an order.  (Id. art. 8(1)(b)(1).)

The Superior Council of the Judiciary must define a special plan to address the increase in the number of jurisdictional proceedings related to requests by migrants present in Italy for access to the international and humanitarian protection regime and to provide for other judicial procedures related to the influx of migrants.  (Id. art. 11(1); see also Dante Figueroa, Italy, REFUGEE LAW & POLICY, Law Library of Congress website (Mar. 2016).)