Tough new laws against illegal immigration are set to come into force after being approved by the Italian senate.
Among the controversial measures are fines of up to 10,000 euros for anyone caught trying to enter the country illegally. It has provoked an outcry from humanitarian groups and the left.
Felice Belisario of the leftist opposition said the costs of implementing the legislation would actually undermine security and “paralyse the justice system”.
The detention period for suspected offenders has been increased from two to four months. Cracking down on illegal immigration has been a top priority for Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his allies.
Federico Bricolo of the Northern League said: “Having stopped the illegals from landing on our shores we’re targeting those in our towns — the criminals, drug-traffickers and pimps. We don’t want these people among us.”
Italy has been one of the European country’s most affected by illegal immigration in recent years and it remains divided on how to tackle the problem. In some areas people have set up civilian patrols, another source of deep debate.