Right-wing Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini tweeted in July that before the end of summer, the Italian government’s budget for each asylum seekers would go down from €35 to at least €25, adding that the money would instead be used to fund security operations.
But can Salvini alone reduce Italy’s asylum seeker reception budget? Gianfranco Schiavone, president of Consorzio Italiano di Solidarietà — an NGO that works with migrants in Trieste, Italy, — says no.
“Politicians can’t do whatever they want. There is a clear EU directive that outlines what the level of services should be for people seeking asylum,” he told Euronews.
What Schiavone is referring to is directive 2013/33. This specific law aims to give asylum seekers “a dignified standard of living” while they wait for a decision on their asylum application.
However, it does not apply to those whose asylum applications were rejected by a European Union member state.
Under the EU law, countries need to provide asylum seekers with food, housing, clothing, healthcare, education for minors, access to employment under certain conditions and legal counselling.
It is up to member states to decide whether they provide asylum seekers with pocket money or vouchers to pay for "material needs".
The amount needs to be equal to the sum nationals need to "ensure adequate standards of living" however.
The directive also includes a section detailing services provided to "vulnerable" persons, especially unaccompanied minors and victims of torture.
However, the directive leaves it up to member states to define what constitutes "an adequate standard of living".
Member states were required to incorporate the 2013 directive into national law by July 20, 2015.
Schiavone said it wasn’t feasible to offer all of these services with less than €30.
"All of this has a cost, of course. It can be debatable, but the debate window is between 30 and €35 if we really want to aim low."
"Lowering the expenditure below €35 would provoke the implosion of the system, leaving thousands of people in the hands of the worst our country can offer," he added.