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Italian Senate votes to decriminalize illegal immigration

Compromise means repeat offenders still face criminal charges

21 January, 16:19
Italian Senate votes to decriminalize illegal immigration (ANSA) - Rome, January 21 - Italy's Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a government measure decriminalizing illegal immigration.

The amendment to an existing prison law passed with 182 votes in favor, 16 against and 7 abstentions. This means that overstaying one's visa or entering Italy from a non-EU nation without a visa become administrative offenses will no longer punishable be under the penal code.

Italy's tough migration laws became a hot issue in October when prosecutors were obliged to put the survivors of two migrant-boat disasters in which some 400 people died under investigation in order to respect the law.

Critics say the government measure does not go far enough, because it still allows for anyone entering the country without a visa to be expelled. The government's proposal was a compromise after centre-right and right-wing parties expressed concerns that softening the migration laws could cause security risks.

While being an illegal immigrant is no longer a criminal offence, it is considered such in the case of repeat offenders, such as someone who breaks the law against entering Italy without a visa after having previously been expelled. Premier Enrico Letta on December 23 promised to make changing the old migration law a priority.