Italian lawmakers April 8 rejected a bid to triple the amount of time undocumented immigrants can be detained, in a rare defeat for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling coalition. In a narrow vote, opposition deputies—joined by some members of Berlusconi’s own conservative coalition—voted against extending the period from two months to six months.
The opposition amendment to a government security decree containing the provision was approved by a 232-225 vote, in parliament’s lower-house Chamber of Deputies. There were 12 abstentions. “I am incensed,” Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, one of the strongest proponents of the measure, said after the vote. Maroni charged it amounted “to an amnesty for illegal immigrants and represents an irresistible call for more landings” on Italy’s shores by those making clandestine crossings of the Mediterranean from North Africa.
The current two-month limit for migrants to be detained at “reception camps” is insufficient to allow proper identification, which is necessary for their repatriation, said Maroni, a member of the anti-immigration Northern League. (DPA, April 8)
The vote comes in the wake of several controversies surrounding “illegal” immigration in Italy. Earlier this month, police discovered 24 Afghan children living in filthy conditions in the sewer system under Rome’s railway station. (AFP, April 5) On March 30, an overcrowded ship full of Italy-bound migrants capsized off Libya, leaving more than 230 dead. (NYT, April 2)