Harsh Immigration Law Passed in Italy

On July 11, 2002, the Italian government passed by decree Law No. 177, the "Bossi Fini" law, introducing criminal sanctions for persons caught illegally entering the country or who return after being expelled. Under the new law, an immigrant who is stopped without a residence permit will be accompanied to the border and expelled immediately. Immigrants are also subject to arrest and detention of six to twelve months, to be followed by immediate deportation, if caught attempting to re-enter Italy before the expiry of a re-entry ban. A second offence is punishable by up to four years imprisonment. The permit for residence of immigrants has been strictly linked to a work contract. Also under the new law, the time limit for seclusion in detention centres whilst waiting for extradition has been extended from thirty days to sixty days and asylum seekers will be placed in detention while awaiting asylum review, in contravention of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights which states, "Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person." All foreigners applying for a residence permit will be fingerprinted. The law, initially proposed by Mr Gianfranco Fini of the National Alliance (AN – a neo-fascist party) and Mr Umberto Bossi of the Lega Nord (LN – a separatist party), extremist members of Italy's governing coalition, replaces the former "Turco-Napolitano" immigration law. The new law was passed despite protest by members of Italy's Romani community, along with other immigrant and minority groups. On September 16, 2002, the Italian national daily newspaper La Repubblica reported that, in response to accusations that fingerprinting of immigrants as required by the Bossi-Fini Law was overly harsh, Mr Giancarlo Gentilini, the Mayor of Treviso, stated "What's the problem? I think we should take prints of their feet and noses too."

(ERRC, La Repubblica)

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