With 298 votes in favor, 232 against and nine abstentions, the Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday approved the new security decree, which now moves on to the Senate, where it has been expected since the vote of confidence. The timing for the approval of the measure, which definitively ends the era of anti-immigration decrees of Matteo Salvini, is tight, since the deadline for passing it is December 20. On Thursday morning, the conference of group leaders was set to decide the calendar for the process, but it was almost certain that the final vote in the Senate would be set for Friday next week at the latest.
This decree, rightly or wrongly considered to be the flagship achievement of the Lega, is thus getting ready to vanish from the Italian political scene for good. There are certainly still doubts about possible surprises coming from some dissident M5S senators, but the road seems to be mapped out. There was a manifestation of M5S discontent on Wednesday in the Chamber, where three deputies voted against the new decree, dissenting with their group, while three others abstained.
The Lega’s protests were uncompromising—after reminding the M5S that they had voted for Salvini’s security decrees in the previous Conte 1 government, they displayed a banner with the words “Stop the illegal immigrants decree,” while showing a giant image of Conte and Salvini together at the time of the approval of the decrees. “We from the Five Star Movement are decisively different from other parties, and especially from the Lega,” came the reply from the President of the Constitutional Affairs Commission, Giuseppe Brescia (M5S). “And this difference lies precisely in the fact that we have chosen to remain in government, to continue to fight and to take responsibility to try to solve the problems.”
In the past, criticism of the previous security decrees had also come from President Mattarella, who had stressed the need for a partial rewrite. The changes made went beyond the latter’s requests, and they also confirm, as established by a ruling of the Constitutional Court, the possibility for asylum seekers to get registered in municipal registries.
Among the most important changes, some concern NGO ships that carry out rescues at sea. According to the new provisions, the rescue of migrants in distress must be carried out after having notified the flag country of the vessel and the competent coordination center, which includes the one in Tripoli—a condition that, obviously, no NGO will ever accept.
On the other hand, the oversized fines for NGO vessels that don’t respect the prohibition, imposed by the Interior Ministry in agreement with the Ministries of Transport and Defense, to enter Italian territorial waters are repealed. The new penalties are between 10,000 and 50,000 euros, but can only be imposed after the ruling of a judge. There is also the possibility of transforming humanitarian permits into residence permits if the migrant has found a job, while it will be forbidden to expel foreigners who risk political persecution, torture or persecution for reasons of race, sex and religion in their home country, but also if they run risks because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. There is the possibility of applying for a humanitarian permit for people in these situations.
Another important innovation concerns the creation of the Integration and Reception System (SAI). Two levels of services are set out: the first for asylum seekers, and the second for those whose application has been approved, who are set to be the beneficiaries of services aimed at integration.
There is also something new regarding the “immigrant flows” decree: if this is not published during the year, the Prime Minister can issue it anyway, without taking into account the ceiling on entries set during the previous year. Finally, there are the waiting times for the response to applications for citizenship, which have been changed back to 24 months, extensible to up to 36 months, and the so-called “Willy rule” that provides fines for those who take part in fights outside public premises, but also imprisonment from six months to six years in case someone ends up injured or dead.
Deputy Interior Minister Matteo Mauri expressed his satisfaction for the green light given by the Chamber to the new security decree: “Today’s vote is a very important step towards getting back to managing the migration phenomenon with rationality and in compliance with international law.” LeU deputy Erasmo Palazzotto spoke along similar lines: “today, a dark page of our democracy is over, restoring, at least in part, the principles of juridical civility that had been trampled on by what I won’t hesitate to call a legal aberration, namely the Salvini decrees.”
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