How Security Decree Becomes Synonymous With Insecurity

All the norms introduced by the Security decree seem to go in the direction of a cut in rights for already vulnerable individuals

Last September, the Council of Ministers unanimously approved the so-called Salvini decree on immigration and security. The decree consists of three titles. The first deals with the reform of the right to asylum and citizenship, the second with public security, prevention and contrast of organized crime, while the last focuses on the administration and management of goods confiscated from the mafia. However, what do those provisions concern for regular migrants and asylum status?

Abolition of humanitarian protection

The first article of the decree concerns the granting of asylum status – a topic so dear to the Interior Minister — and provides for the repealing of the protection for humanitarian reasons introduced by the Consolidated Law on Immigration. Before the new decree, the law stipulated that regional courts could grant a residence permit to foreign citizens who present “serious reasons”, in particular “of a humanitarian nature or resulting from constitutional or international obligations of the Italian state”. People fleeing emergencies such as conflicts, natural disasters or other particularly serious conditions in countries outside the European Union were also included. Humanitarian protection can also be recognized to those foreign nationals who could be subject to persecution in their country (article 19 of the Immigration Act) or when they are victims of exploitation or human trafficking. Many international refugees are currently relying on this kind of international protection.

With the Salvini decree, this type of asylum permit can no longer be granted by the local court judgments and commissions, nor by the courts issuing an appeal following a denial. Instead, a residence permit is introduced for some “special cases”: for victims of domestic violence or serious work exploitation, for those in need of medical treatment when they are in a seriously compromised state of health, or for those coming from a country that is in a situation of “contingent and exceptional calamity”. Finally, a residence permit is provided for those who have distinguished themselves for “acts of particular civil value”.

I would like to focus on this last condition for just a minute, as it implicitly assumes that not only migrants can obtain asylum rights in particular and extreme cases of intense and continued violence,  but refugees must also demonstrate that they actually deserve the international protection. As far as I can remember, I haven’t done much to “deserve” my status of Italian citizen. We have the privilege, but we don’t have the merit of being born in this part of the world, as they have no responsibility for being born in that other. Apparently, our government has never considered the issue from this perspective.

Reform of citizenship

The decree provides that the Italian law on citizenship of 1992 is amended. The application for the acquisition of citizenship may be rejected even in case of marriage with an Italian citizen. So far, marriage applications could not be rejected. The contribution required for the application also increased from 200 to 250 euros and the term for the granting of citizenship is extended up to 48 months, both for residence and marriage.

Detention of asylum seekers and irregular persons at border crossing points

Article 3 of the decree provides that asylum seekers may be held for a period of up to thirty days in the so-called hotspots, to ascertain their identity and citizenship. In addition, asylum seekers may be detained for a maximum of 180 days within the repatriation residence centers (CPRs). Article 6 provides for the allocation of more funds for repatriations: 500 thousand euros in 2018, one and a half million euros in 2019 and another one and a half million in 2020. Furthermore, asylum applications can be refused if the applicants can be returned to another area of their country considered to be safe. The problem is how to realistically determine that the internal area of that country is safe. In any case, this privision condemns already unstable countries to take care of their internally displaced people.

Restrictions on the reception system

The system for the reception of asylum seekers and refugees (Sprar), the ordinary procedure managed by the Italian municipalities, will be limited only to those who already hold international protection or to unaccompanied foreign minors. This measure is fairly problematic. Indeed, all asylum seekers, hence also those who are waiting for a court judgment, are part of the Sprar project. These people will inevitably be sent back to the extraordinary reception centers (Cas) that, unlike the Sprar where every euro is reported, are often private structures financed by public money. This makes them more permeable to corruption: so far, investigations have always concerned the Cas and never the Sprar. Moreover, in the Cas, the migrants are less controllable and their management is much more complex. Therefore, the risk is that of having many more immigrants on the street without occupation, with the consequent inclusion situations in the city communities.

Exclusion from the registration of asylum seekers

Article 13 of the decree stipulates that asylum seekers cannot be registered at the registry office and therefore cannot access the residence. This norm was greatly contested during the last few weeks by several Italian mayors, principally the mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando. Orlando and the mayor of Naples Luigi De Magistris announced they do not intend to apply the law because “it is an inhuman text that violates human rights”. After this first act of disobedience, other mayors declared that they will boycott the norm. But why is it so important to be enrolled in the registry office and what does it mean to be excluded? Finally, does it make sense to suspend the application of the decree or should they just apply the new rules correctly?

According to Enrico Gargiulo, professor of social policy foundations at the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice, the decree introduces a “revolution in the field of the right to the registry office”. Indeed, for the first time, a category of people was clearly denied a perfect subjective right, contravening the constitution and other general immigration rules such as the 1998 Consolidated Act. It might sound like open discrimination.

The Association of Immigration Law Studies (Asgi) shared the same opinion with a statement that reiterates the unconstitutionality of this point, announcing that it has already submitted several appeals contesting judgments of denials. “In fact, we believe that there is no reason to justify under the constitutional law a difference in treatment that affects only one category of foreigners legally residing (namely, holders of asylum residence permits), as it violates the principle of equal treatment with Italian citizens under Article 6 of the Consolidated Law on Immigration (Law 286/1998).”

Registration is necessary for the issuance of a residence certificate and of the identification document. These two papers are the precondition for the access to certain public services, and in particular social services such the taking in charge of social workers, access to public housing, the granting of subsidies, the enrollment to the national health service and to a job center. In addition, a valid ID is required to sign an employment contract, to rent a house or to open a bank account.

Security of whom?

All the norms introduced by the Salvini decree seem to go in the direction of a cut in rights for already vulnerable individuals. However, this isn’t a zero-sum game, because the reduction in the rights of a category of people does not increase rights for the others. It is a general loss of democracy and humanity. The increasing impossibility to obtain a regular job will boost illegal work that, in turn, causes less taxation and fewer State revenues. Additionally, if regular migrants cannot obtain legal residence, they will live in the street, increasing the so-feared urban decay. Thus, the Northern League and the other sovranist parties will have some fresh good reasons to blame migrants for degradation and chaos.

Finally, with the elimination of humanitarian permits, illegal immigration will spread, leading to a greater propensity to commit crimes. The Decree therby produces insecurity as it reduces the space for integration. And without integration, we are all more vulnerable.

Unfortunately, the answer that many migrants will find is illegality. Being poor, on the margins, without recognition of one’s own person: this condition will be a great opportunity for the mafias, a push into delinquency, social deviance, or illegal work, and even a danger for the radicalization of many young people. So yes, at that point the word “immigration” will be finally linked to “security” or, better, to insecurity. However, it will be equally clear who and how this unworthy situation was painfully made possible.