To read the chapter dedicated to immigration policy in the new Italian government’s “agreement for the government of change,” one gets the impression that the “clandestino” — the economic migrant who for years has been the target of the Lega’s right-wing, “invasion” propaganda — has been joined by a second target: the asylum seeker.
The whole program seems to be based on the assumption that our country, while waiting to go beyond the Dublin Agreement, can only accept those who ask for protection if it’s compatible with the interests of national security, public order and economic sustainability.
Not a single word on integration, on occupational inclusion, on the strengthening of the SPRAR system (the Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees), which is working. The ideas of hospitality and reception are associated with business and crime. Moreover, there is no lack of discriminatory measures, such as the exclusion of foreign families from welfare benefits.
Therefore, the green light has been given to unclear and reckless statements to stop the flow of refugees from the countries of departure. There is no mention of the much-touted “naval blockade,” which would have been condemned by the EU for a clear violation of the principle of non-refoulement. However, it is stated that “the assessment of the admissibility of applications for international protection must take place in the countries of origin,” denying the fundamental principle to the right of asylum, conceived for those forced to leave their country in danger.
A set of measures are also proposed in the wake of the European strategy for the externalization of the right of asylum, already contained in the European Commission’s proposal to reform the regulation of asylum seekers. These include fast-track procedures at the border and the identification of “safe” third countries to resend those who need international protection.
For the asylum seekers already present in Italy, as part of a more general tendency for security and repression, the government plans to identify “specific crimes that result, if committed by asylum seekers, in their immediate expulsion from the country.” For those who do not obtain some form of legal protection, the effect will also be expulsion, given that the government plans to take away resources from the reception and hospitality policy.
There are an estimated 500,000 irregular migrants in Italy, but only a part of them are asylum seekers who arrived in recent years and whose claims were refused. The others are often foreigners who have been residing in Italy for many years, perhaps with their families, and have had difficulty renewing their residence permits because the criteria are too strict. They often are forced to work in the black economy as caregivers or farm laborers in the Pontine islands and in the northern countryside.
As we all know, these are the people who have filled up the Identification and Expulsion Centers, now called Repatriation Centers, since their establishment. The future government is aiming for the consolidation of “detention centers of repatriation,” taking the previous government’s policy to its extreme limit. It will provide for the construction of a center in each region, with a capacity “sufficient for all irregular immigrants present on the national territory” — and thus incalculable. Consequently, it will modify the maximum detention time from three months to 18, in the belief — disproven in recent years — that this is the length of detention conducive to the success of repatriation procedures.
It is a pity that the data from the Ministry of Internal Affairs confirm the ineffectiveness of the entire system. Over the years, the average number of repatriations compared to those detained has been constantly only around 50 percent, regardless of the number of facilities and detention times. The length of detention was already increased to 18 months in 2011 without any significant results in terms of effectiveness.
The associations Asgi, Caritas and Arci have right reasons to be worried. The radical member of Parliament, Riccardo Magi, is right to affirm that he seems to have gone back in time. The nostalgia for the years before Maastricht and the failed securitarian approach to immigration is as if we had not already experienced its failure.