26 June 2009
Italy: Discriminatory draft law affecting migrants and Roma community

Amnesty International is concerned about proposals included in a draft law -the so-called “security package”- approved on 14 May 2009 by the Chamber of Deputies, and now under consideration by the Senate. The organization considers that the law would violate human rights of migrants and asylum-seekers and might lead to discrimination against Roma and Sinti.

Amnesty International is particularly concerned about three provisions:

  • Criminalizing irregular migration: The draft law criminalizes irregular entry and stay in Italy. Making irregular migration a crime, in combination with existing criminal law, will have severe consequences for the human rights of migrants. Existing criminal provisions oblige all civil servants (including in health, education, social services) to report to the police all criminal acts, including, if it becomes a crime, being an irregular migrant. If they fail to do so, civil servants would face criminal prosecution.

Amnesty International is concerned that if the draft law passes, this will deter irregular migrants from accessing to school, medical (including emergency) care, protection by security forces against crime , for fear of being reported to the police. Parents who are irregular migrants may be prevented to report the birth fo their child; this would affect the newborn’s right to recognition before the law.

  • Denying rights to vulnerable people based on residence and registration status:  According to the draft law, persons without a fixed abode would have to register for residency status at the Ministry of Interior and no longer in the municipality where they live.

As residency in the territory of a municipality is a precondition to obtain access to health care, social assistance, education and electoral registration, those who live in mobile homes or who are homeless (many of whom are migrants, Roma and Sinti) risk being denied the enjoyment of those rights and, if authorized to vote in Italy may be prevented from voting.

  • Establishing and empowering associations of citizens to patrol municipalities: The draft law, if adopted, will allow local authorities to ask for assistance by associations of citizens to cooperate with police forces in patrolling the streets.

Amnesty International is concerned about the lack of clarity of the provisions of the draft law, which may result in abuses, including discrimination and impunity. For example, it is unclear what powers these patrols would have; what training (If any) is required to participate in them; under whose authority they will operate and what measures will be adopted to ensure accountability for violations of human rights law.

The draft law encountered criticism for its consequences on human rights by NGOs, IGOs, churches and State institutions. Italy’s Superior Council of Judges - the self-governing body of the judiciary - in an advisory opinion, criticised the law in relation to infringement of the rights of migrants. Nevertheless, it appears that the government is determined to obtain approval of this law.

In light of the above, Amnesty international calls on the government to ensure that any legislation adopted within the “security package” is in full compliance with Italy’s obligation under international law. If it is not it should be amended or withdrawn

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