Italian mayors, governors challenge government asylum law
ROME (AP) — The ranks of prominent citizens opposed to a new Italian law cracking down on asylum-seekers swelled on Monday, with more governors announcing court challenges to the populist government’s measure.
The law, approved first in the form of a government decree and later by Parliament late last year, tightens criteria for migrants receiving humanitarian protection, granting that status only to victims of labor exploitation, human trafficking, domestic violence, natural calamities and a few other limited situations.
Previously, many asylum-seekers who failed to qualify for full asylum were accorded humanitarian protection, with Italy allowing them to stay for a fixed term and receive social benefits. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the anti-migrant League party, contends Italian authorities had been too elastic in the past in granting such protection.
The new law bans asylum-seekers from gaining residency, which is needed to apply for public housing or a place for their children in public nursery schools, as well as complete access to Italy’s national health care system. And those accorded humanitarian protection won’t be eligible for shelter in government-run facilities for asylum-seekers, sparking concern they’ll end up living on the street.
Piedmont Gov. Sergio Chiamparino told Sky TG24 TV Monday that he’ll ask Italy’s constitutional court to decide whether the law violates the Constitution. He said he’d join forces with Tuscany’s governor in the court challenge.
“A really wide movement is being created” to challenge the residency measure, Tuscany Gov. Enrico Rossi said in Florence. He explained that Tuscany’s challenge would take aim on the tightened criteria for humanitarian protection as well as the ban on achieving residency.
Umbria, another central region, also decided on a court challenge of the law.
Chiamparino said in the meanwhile his region would continue to provide full health care for asylum-seekers and insisted by doing so, he wasn’t disobeying the law.
“We are simply obeying a fundamental principle that someone with a health problem gets treatment,” Chiamparino said.
Last week, the mayors of Palermo, Naples and some smaller cities vowed not to implement the law. Others, like Milan’s mayor, sharply criticized the law, but said they would implement it unless courts ruled otherwise.
In Milan, on Monday evening, about 50 critics of the crackdown protested outside city hall. Some banged wooden spoons on pot lids to draw attention to their cause.
Among mayors criticizing the law are some from the 5-Star Movement, a government coalition partner. Livorno’s 5-Star Mayor Filippo Nogarin, while saying that laws must be respected, has slammed the measure as “anything but a good law, ethically and politically.”
Cracks have formed lately in the government coalition over migrant policy, with a prominent faction of the 5-Stars pushing for Italy to allow migrants rescued at sea from human traffickers’ unseaworthy boats to reach Italy.
Salvini insists Italy’s ports are closed to private group’s migrant rescue vessels.
Antonio Calanni contributed to this report from Milan.