Analysis. A new decree from the Council of Ministers ramped up spending on law enforcement and slammed minors with expulsion and adult confinement.

The Italian government tightened rules on minors and expulsions

“We have worked so much, but the results are not what we hoped for” on the issue of immigration, Meloni admitted on Saturday, a hot button that vice-premier Salvini is pushing hard ahead of the European elections.

On Tuesday, a preliminary government meeting before Wednesday’s Council of Ministers agreed on a new tightening of measures, which will result in yet another migrant decree. The center-right is in a frenzy: the FdI is trying to head off the Lega’s attacks by eliminating as many guarantees and rights as it can.

Now minors are in the crosshairs. The new text calls for deportation for those who lie about how old they are and, in general terms, about their identity: age verification will be carried out by multidisciplinary teams, but – and here comes the elimination of guarantees – “in the case of substantial numbers of arrivals tracked across the national territory, after entry by eluding border controls, the public security authority may order anthropometric or other health examinations, including radiographic examinations, aimed at identifying their age.” This means there will be faster and less accurate tests, with a window of appeal as small as five days.

And there’s more: in the event that the foreigner fails to report to the police station for identity verification and formalization of the application for protected status, “the manifestation of intention previously expressed does not constitute an application and the proceedings do not commence.” If an applicant for international protection leaves the area without good reason, the application may be suspended; they can ask for it to be resumed within nine months (instead of the previous 12). On the other hand, migrant women have been included among the vulnerable categories.

Another hot button is the issue of reception facilities for minors: if these are at full capacity, as they are at the moment (with 21,000 admitted), the local prefect may order the reception of minors not younger than 16 in a dedicated section in ordinary reception centers, “for a period not exceeding 90 days.”

Minors living together with adults has often been denounced by third sector organizations because it exposes them, for instance, to the risk of trafficking. But the government is staying the course: it intends to shift some of the minors to ordinary centers and also increase the leeway centers have to sidestep the limitations on capacity: it will be possible to “derogate from the capacity parameters provided for reception centers and facilities, to an extent not exceeding twice the number of places initially envisioned.”

A similar provision will also apply to temporary accommodation facilities dedicated to unaccompanied minors over the age of 14: “In cases of extreme urgency, construction or expansion will be allowed by way of derogation from the capacity limit established, to the maximum extent of 50 percent.”

Under the heading of public order, holders of long-term EU residence permits will be able to be removed from the country by order of the Interior Minister for serious reasons of public order or security. If there are “serious reasons of public security,” expulsion may also be ordered by the local prefect. The measure applies to foreigners “regularly residing in the territory for at least five years, integrated into the work and social context.” The chief of police may also forbid the re-entry of an expelled person who has filed an appeal if they believe the latter may cause “serious disturbances or a serious danger to public order or security.” One of the articles aims to prevent repeated asylum applications: it will be the chief of police, not the local Asylum Commission, who will have a decisive role.

The apparatus that the government is setting up will be a major burden on the public coffers. Instead of investing in reception and education, they are spending money on deportation centers and repression. To strengthen security at train stations, the army personnel deployed as part of Operation Safe Streets will be increased by 400 by December 31, at a total cost of €2.8 million. In the event of substantial arrivals, the Interior Ministry will also be able to deploy the Coast Guard in hotspots: from 2024 to 2026, the recruitment of 100 new volunteers is authorized for each year. To cover the expenses and ancillary charges of port authority personnel, “resources will be increased by €6,772,000 for each of the years 2024, 2025 and 2026.”

To strengthen the checks on visa applications, up to 20 police inspectors and supervisors may be allocated to diplomatic and consular offices: this will cost €125,000 for 2023 and €3.7 million annually from 2024. The list of expenses goes on: for needs related to police duties and to strengthen the fire departments, the expenditure of an additional €3.7 million for 2023 and €20 million for each of the years from 2024 to 2030 will be authorized.

Furthermore, “in order to guarantee the needs regarding the protection of public order and security, also in light of the exceptional influx of migrants, a fund is established for the overtime work of the personnel of the Police Forces, into which any savings in expenses will flow.” Finally, the centers will be exempt from paying the refuse tax: “The related charges, amounting to €500,000 for 2023 and €2 million for each of the years 2024 and 2025,” will be paid from the Reserve and Special Funds.

The ANCI association of municipalities had submitted a document to Minister Piantedosi calling for rather different things: activating government first reception centers for unaccompanied minors, stabilizing the localized reception systems for adults as well, reactivating the safeguard clause (exempting municipalities that operate SPRAR centers from having to support temporary reception centers as well) and giving incentives to municipalities that take initiatives to welcome migrants.

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