Illegal immigrants heading for Italy are facing the prospect of up to four years in jail under a controversial new law that has been passed by the Senate.
The law makes being an illegal immigrant a crime and expulsions easier. It means landlords who rent lodgings to illegals could also go to prison for up to three years.
The proposals were roundly criticised by human rights group, Catholic organisations, European courts, and left-wingers in Italy.
Anna Finocchiaro from the Democratic Party said: “The law goes against the principle of equality to say the least. I don’t know why someone should be punished more because they’re an illegal immigrant.”
The law spearheads the battle against illegal immigration, championed by the conservative prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
The Italian Justice Minister, Angelino Alfano said: “I see common ground with the opposition and that’s what I want to develop. I want a dialogue without prejudice in the interests of citizens, and not some political ideas.”
Last week, the Italian Red Cross began an equally controversial census of Roma immigrants living in ramshackle camps.
The Berlusconi government says it is vital for security. But the EU says it is racial discrimination.