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.


Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

Updated 16 November 2018
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Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

  • Community leaders will check on preparations for repatriation
  • Refugees who fled tents fearing forced repatriation have started to return

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: A group of Rohingya community leaders will go to Rakhine, Myanmar, to witness developments on the ground there, said Bangladesh Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali on Thursday evening in Dhaka.

Ali was talking to the journalists after his briefing to diplomats in Dhaka over the Rohingya repatriation and forthcoming general election. He said that during the briefing session diplomats came up with the idea of sending the Rohingya community leaders (Majhi) to witness the practical developments for repatriation.

“We agreed with this idea,” said Bangladesh Foreign Minister.

A group of community leaders will check the preparations initiated by Myanmar government and will brief their fellow Rohingyas after returning Bangladesh.

Ali said that there is a misconception among a few stakeholders that Bangladesh was trying to send back Rohingyas against their will.

“If we wanted to send the refugees forcibly, we won’t have allowed them in our country. We have shown a humanitarian gesture to them, so there is no question of sending them back forcibly,” Ali said.

“We will not send a single one of the refugees against their will. Those who will repatriate will go on their own will,” he added.

Talking to Arab News, Abul Kalam, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh said, they have not stopped the repatriation process. It will remain open and if any of the Rohingyas wants to go back home, Bangladesh authorities will initiate repatriation for him or her.

Commenting on the failure of the first attempt at repatriation Kalam said, “Now we need to create more pressure on Myanmar for the completion of some specific tasks to build confidence among the Rohingyas. In the next Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting, we will put up these issues after more scrutiny.”
However, the next JWG meeting date is yet to be fixed, Kalam said.

After a week of tension over feared repatriation, on Friday everything was peaceful in the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar. The refugees who fled from their tents fearing forceful repatriation started returning to their shanties.

“The Myanmar authority wanted to deceive us in the name of so-called repatriation process. If we would have returned on Thursday, they (Myanmar) would never granted our citizenship rights,” said Mohammad Lutfor Rahman, 53, of Jamtoli camp, Ukhia, who fled from his own tent after hearing that he was listed as a returnee in the first group.

Why did the Rohingyas refuse to take the offer to go back home, Rahman was asked. He said, “Myanmar authorities have declared that the repatriated Rohingyas will be kept in the camps for 5 months or more, guarded by armed law enforcers and there were no clear guidelines if we can go back to our original places or villages. So, what is point of accepting a camp life proposal in Rakhine?”

Another refugee, Syed Alam, 37, of Kutupalang camp, told Arab News, “Before any kind of repatriation, our top most priority is the guarantee of citizenship and once it is granted many of our problems will be minimized.”

However, talking about the future course of repatriation, United Nations Human Rights agency, UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, Fairas Al-Khateeb, said, “We will continue to assist the Bangladesh government in assessing the voluntariness for repatriation. Bangladesh and Myanmar have made the deal of repatriation bilaterally, we can’t say when it will actually take place.”