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Italian Senate approves bill to make asylum applications harder

Italian Senate approves bill to make asylum applications harder
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By Mark ArmstrongReuters, EFE
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The Italian coalition government has won a confidence vote over proposed security legislation that would make asylum applications more difficult.

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Italy's coalition government has comfortably won a confidence vote in the Senate over proposed legislation that would make it more difficult for migrants to be granted asylum.

The bill is being promoted by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who is head of the far-right Northern League party and a champion of tighter rules on immigration.

Salvini celebrated the result on Twitter, calling it a "historic day".

Although the coalition partner 5-Star movement broadly supported the legislation, five of its members refused to cast a ballot.

If the bill becomes law it will mean that any asylum seeker convicted of a "first-degree" crime will have their application terminated. Those crimes would include drug offences, theft, sexual violence, and violence against a public official.

Any immigrant convicted of a terrorism offence would have their Italian citizenship withdrawn and Italy would not allow entry to any foreigner who has been expelled from any other country in the Schengen area.

The length of stay in refugee centres would be extended from 90 to 180 days while asylum applications are processed.

One of the most controversial points of the bill concerns the granting of asylum on grounds of humanitarian protection, which would be replaced by a one-year residence permit and only in extreme cases such as health emergencies, natural disasters in the country of origin or if the applicant has done something of merit on Italian soil.

The bill has been criticised by humanitarian groups and Italian opposition parties who argue that it will create more undocumented migrants.

The bill must now go to the lower chamber for approval.

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