Italy’s parliament has passed a law making it a crime to be an illegal immigrant. Those who stay without a visa or authorisation could be liable to fines of up to 10,000 Euros.
The law also obliges civil servants to alert authorities if they receive information about illegal immigrants, while ordinary citizens could face up to three years in jail for renting accomodation to them. The legislation has been heavily criticised by the political left and immigrant associations who described measures such as citizens patrols as evoking the era of Italy’s fascist dictator, Mussolini. Italy has also given the Libyan government three patrol boats (another three will follow) in a attempt to stem the tide of illegal immigrants from north Africa. Roberto Maroni, Italy’s Minister of the Interior said: “We want to cut the roots from this flux of immigration and put an end to this racket. We want to do this while at the same time respecting the rights under international law of real refugees.” Some commentators say the crackdown on migrants could help Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the upcoming European polls. Playing to a popular law-and-order agenda could shift voters’ attention away from Berlusconi’s embarrassing divorce.