The Italian government has approved amendments to the controversial so-called security decrees spearheaded by former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini. Reportedly, the Italian and Tunisian governments have agreed to extend cooperation on deportation and to increase deportations from Italy to 600 a month.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet has approved a new law package that overhauls controversial migration and security decrees introduced by Matteo Salvini, who is currently facing a trial over kidnapping charges related to the prevention of disembarkation of 116 people rescued at sea. The amendments include the reinstatement of a humanitarian protection status, the lift of the ban on registration of asylum seekers at municipality level, and the reduction of the maximum period of detention for asylum seekers awaiting deportation from 180 to 90 days. They also cover  the restoration of the municipal reception and integration system and a reduction of the maximum waiting period to obtain citizenship from four to three years. Further, although upholding the mandate of the Ministers of the Interior, Defence and Transport to deny entry and disembarkation of vessels, it introduces exceptions for rescue vessels who have conducted operations in accordance with international law and communicated to relevant authorities in Italy or the flag state. In case of violations the maximum fines imposed on search and rescue operators are reduced from one million Euros to 50,000.

According to media, the Italian and Tunisian governments have agreed to extend cooperation on deportation which was established in 2011. The agreement that has not been officially confirmed by either government reportedly paves the way for up to 600 deportations from Italy to Tunisia every month starting from October. Italy has already deported people to Tunisia at the rate of 80 a week. Following the media exposure, the Tunisian government has allegedly assumed a more critical position to the agreement.

Authorities in the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia are concerned about an increase of arrivals through the Balkan route. In an interview Chiara Cardoletti, Representative for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) outlines inadequate services and a lack of structure in the response to arrivals in Trieste, despite numbers that are, according to the agency “under control’: “If we compare Sicily to Trieste, we can say that in the latter the system of arrivals is much less structured,” and continued: “needs remain extremely visible and there is a lot of confusion regarding readmissions.” The representative further notes the particular vulnerability of people arriving: “People who arrive through the Balkan route are in a situation of extreme vulnerability, they are victims of grave abuses and have often dealt with dramatic conditions both at a psychological and physical level”. A youth died in a hospital in Udine after reaching the border between Italy and Slovenia in a frail condition.

Another youth, a 15-year-old boy died in a hospital in Palermo after going into coma following his disembarkation from the quarantine ship Allegra. The death of the boy who was rescued in mid-September by Spanish rescue ship Open Arms sparked anger and an investigation into the circumstances is underway. The legal guardian of the unaccompanied boy stated that he had spent two weeks in quarantine despite his serious health condition. EMERGENCY an organization cooperating with Open Arms on its rescue mission on the Mediterranean stated: “it is important to be given a safe port as soon as possible and to spend the least time possible in quarantine in structures which are adequate for the purpose and where their rights are respected”.

According to statistics from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) 24,400 people have arrived to Italy by sea in 2020 as of 6 October.

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Photo: ECRE