Italy Senate passes government’s anti-migrant decree

The new laws could allow migrants to be removed from the country, even those already living there Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 November 2018
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Italy Senate passes government’s anti-migrant decree

ROME: The Italian Senate on Wednesday cleared the way for far-right leader Matteo Salvini’s tough anti-migrant and security decree to become law following a confidence vote.
The populist government of Salvini’s League and Luigi Di Maio’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) won the vote with 163 senators for, 59 against and 19 abstentions, including five M5S members opposed to the stringent decree.
The lower house of parliament now has until the end of November to approve the decree, which the coalition first put forward in September and makes it easier to expel migrants and strip them of Italian citizenship.
“Salvini decree, a historic day,” Salvini tweeted after the Senate vote.
The government opted for a confidence vote to get the decree through the senate after M5S members tabled a slew of amendments. It should have no problem passing the lower house given the coalition’s majority.
The decree seeks to radically reduce the number of migrants receiving “humanitarian protection” — a lower level of asylum status that is based on Italian rather than international law — that was awarded to 25 percent of asylum seekers last year.
It will now be awarded based on six strict criteria, including whether there is an urgent medical need or if the applicant was the victim of a natural disaster, or if they had carried out “heroic acts” in Italy.
Of the 81,500 decisions handed down by Italian authorities in 2017, eight percent were granted asylum, eight percent subsidiary protection and a quarter humanitarian protection.
The remainder were rejected. If appeals fail, they face the prospect of being classed as economic migrants who must return home.
Those seeking refugee status will also now have their requests suspended if they are considered “socially dangerous or convicted in the first instance” of crimes, while their appeals are ongoing.
They will in future be housed in bigger reception centers, while only minors and those with recognized refugee status will be housed in different parts of the country in order to facilitate integration.
There are currently around 146,000 migrants held in reception centers, down from 183,000 at the end of 2017.
The Italian mayors’ association has railed against the change, saying that having hundreds of unemployed migrants in reception centers can have a negative impact on small communities.
The new law also lets local police have Taser stun guns and makes it easier to evict squatters by getting rid of the obligation of finding provisional housing for the most vulnerable.
One of the most controversial measures in the bill provides for stripping immigrants of their Italian nationality if they are convicted of “terrorism.”
Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, has taken a hard-line on immigration since the coalition came to power in June, refusing to allow several ships carrying migrants rescued in the Mediterranean to dock at Italian ports.


Kuril islands: strategic chain at heart of Russia-Japan dispute

Updated 29 min 46 sec ago
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Kuril islands: strategic chain at heart of Russia-Japan dispute

  • Soviet troops seized the Kuril Islands from Japan in the final days of World War II
  • The islands are rich in hot springs and minerals and rare metals such as rhenium

MOSCOW: Called the Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan, a string of volcanic islands are at the heart of a feud between the two countries that has prevented them signing a formal World War II peace treaty.
Talks stalled for decades due to Japan’s claim to the four strategic islands seized by the Soviet army in the final days of the war.
Here are some key facts about the Kuril islands:

• The disputed islands of Iturup (Etorofu in Japanese), Kunashir (Kunashiri), Shikotan and Habomai lie at their closest point just a few kilometers (miles) off the north coast of Hokkaido in Japan.
They are the southernmost islands in a volcanic chain that separates the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean.
They are located to the southeast of the Russian island of Sakhalin and are administratively part of the same region, although Tokyo considers them part of its Hokkaido prefecture and “illegally occupied by Russia.”

• Russian Empress Catherine the Great claimed sovereignty over the Kuril islands in 1786 after her government declared they were discovered by “Russian explorers” and therefore “undoubtedly must belong to Russia.”
In the first treaty between tsarist Russia and Japan in 1855, the frontier between the two countries was drawn just north of the four islands closest to Japan.
Twenty years later in 1875, a new treaty handed Tokyo the entire chain, in exchange for Russia gaining full control of the island of Sakhalin.
Japan seized back control of the southern half of Sakhalin after its crushing defeat of Moscow in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.

• The Kuril islands have been back at the center of a dispute between Moscow and Tokyo since Soviet troops invaded them in the final days of World War II.
The USSR only entered into war with Japan on August 9, 1945, just after the United States had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
The Soviet troops completed the takeover of the islands after Japan’s general surrendered later that month.


Russia argues that then US president Franklin Roosevelt promised Soviet leader Joseph Stalin he could take back the Kurils in exchange for joining the war against Japan when they met at the Yalta conference in February 1945 at which the Allied leaders divided up the post-war world.
The Soviet capture of the islands has since prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a formal peace treaty to end the war, despite repeated attempts over the past 70 years to reach an agreement.
In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev first offered to give Japan the two smallest islands, Shikotan and Habomai, in exchange for signing a peace treaty but dropped the idea after Tokyo struck a military alliance with the United States.

Rich in hot springs and rare metals
Strategically, control of the islands ensures Russia has year-round access to the Pacific Ocean for its Pacific Fleet of warships and submarines based in Vladivostok, as the strait between Kunashir and Iturup does not freeze over in winter.
Russia has military bases on the archipelago and has deployed missile systems on the islands.
The islands’ current population is around 20,000 people.
After numerous meetings over the past few years between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, they have launched various economic projects on the islands in areas such as the farming of fish and shellfish, wind-generated energy, and tourism, though Moscow says investment is still meagre.
Since 2017, the two countries have also agreed on charter flights for Japanese former inhabitants to visit family graves there.
The islands are rich in hot springs and minerals and rare metals such as rhenium, which is used in the production of supersonic aircraft.