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Italy: New Law Contains Measures on Visas, Territorial Waters, Virtual Proceedings in Drug Trials, and Refugee Centers

(Jan. 22, 2021) On December 20, 2020, Italy’s government issued Law No. 173 of December 18, 2020, which contains new measures concerning visas, vessels in territorial waters, virtual proceedings in drug trafficking prosecutions, and refugee center security and detainee welfare.

New Provisions on Student Visas, Resident Visas for Refugees

The new legislation allows foreign students who have obtained visas for the entire duration of their enrollment to legally reside in the country during the time of their regular attendance at classes.

The law also extends the provisions applicable to student visas to short-term stays for students at subsidiaries of foreign universities in Italy and foreign higher education institutions at the university level, if their stay in Italy is no longer than 150 days. In such cases, the legal representative of the subsidiary foreign university institution must file a “declaration of presence” with the appropriate law enforcement authorities certifying the presence of the student during the stay for study purposes, within 48 hours of the student’s arrival.

When a foreign student who is subject to a removal order files an application for dismissal of the order during the execution phase to avoid imminent removal from the national territory, the request must be immediately transmitted to the president of the competent territorial commission for expedited review within three days.

The legislation increases the requirements for granting residence visas to refugees and unaccompanied foreign minors. They must enroll in a language training program to become proficient in Italian to at least level A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for languages, obtain a basic knowledge of the fundamental rights and duties enshrined in Italy’s Constitution, and receive job placement counseling.

Vessels in Territorial Waters

In accordance with the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, Italy’s minister of the Interior may limit or prohibit the navigation and anchoring of ships in its territorial waters, except in the case of military vessels or noncommercial government service vessels. These provisions do not apply, however, in the case of rescue operations immediately communicated to the coordination center responsible for maritime rescue and the vessel’s flag state that are carried out in compliance with the requirements of the competent authority for search and rescue at sea. Hefty monetary penalties are established in cases of noncompliance.

Virtual Proceedings in Drug Trafficking Prosecutions 

The new legislation allows the use of remote audiovisual proceedings in the prosecution of drug trafficking offenses whenever possible, in compliance with confidentiality requirements concerning the identity and statements of the parties involved.

Security, Welfare Measures at Refugee Hospitality Centers

The law further regulates hospitality centers that provide housing and security for detained refuge seekers to establish additional control and prevention measures, including surveillance concerning participation in or actively propagandizing in favor of international terrorist organizations. In addition, the national guarantor for persons detained is empowered to delegate certain powers to territorial guarantors for the protection of the health, social, and welfare conditions of detainees, with a view to providing them with necessary therapeutic services.