“Migrants will not have the same rights as other citizens, and this by statute. This is an unbearable, discriminatory approach” which limits “in a very clear and precise manner the right to asylum”. Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (Asgi) president Lorenzo Trucco is worried and forebodes a “very dark horizon”.Here’s what lies behind the “Minniti-Orlando” immigration decree.
“There are so many ways you can build a wall: with concrete or with rules”. This is the image that best gauges what is about to change with the Minniti-Orlando immigration decree, approved by the Senate last week with a vote of confidence (145 votes, a record low in the current parliamentary term) and now waiting for the final approval at the lower Chamber. NGOs assisting migrants, along with many lawyers, have heavily criticised the decree. Its technical aspects are difficult to understand for the general public, which will hardly get a correct picture. This is why we asked Lorenzo Trucco, president of the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (Asgi), for an opinion. He expresses serious concerns: “We are headed towards grim and troubled times. It’s a sea change. The entire asylum system will be changed, for the worse.”
The decree contains technical provisions limiting the right to asylum: which ones in particular?
There is a decisive technical aspect: (EU) directives will be transformed into regulations. This means that States can implement them directly, without amendments. Then there is the creation of a list of “safe” countries of origin and “safe” transit countries. If a person has transited through or comes from a “safe” country of origin, or transited through a country considered as “safe”, such as Turkey, either the asylum application is considered inadmissible, or the process follows an accelerated procedure: in essence, the person has a very slim chance of being granted asylum. Then there is a series of sanctions against those who move within the European Union to try and get asylum in other countries. In these cases, they will be subjected to accelerated procedures, with serious adverse consequences. The decree then introduces obligatory checks on people who obtained the refugee status.
The most controversial issue is the creation of “residence and repatriation centers” (CPR) in every region, and their enlargement. What is your opinion on this?
The establishment of CPRs aims at negating the whole battle that led to the closing of many Identification and Expulsion Centers (CIE). Essentially, they would be transformed into detention centers. Needless to hide it: the plan contained in the (very bad) decree is to expand the centers where people are held. This is a backslide. “Hot spots” are already enclosed places with no access and no judicial control. The problem is that all this is being regulated by governmental decrees, thus bypassing the ordinary parliamentary debates.
Another controversial point is the fact that migrants won’t be able to appeal against a judicial decision when their asylum claim is rejected.
This is unprecedented: there are three jurisdictional levels for a claim against a parking ticket. The decree foresees only two for an asylum seeker who is trying to assert a fundamental right. In other words, by statute some people, for different reasons, are not entitled to an effective access to justice. A decision on asylum may be appealed before a first instance court and then only before the Supreme Court of Cassation. Moreover, the court is not obliged to hear the asylum seeker, unless it deems it necessary. The personal history of the applicant is videotaped in the session before the Territorial Commission; it remains to be seen how these tapes will be used. The video is transmitted to the court, which may or may not decide to hear the parties and not to hold a proper hearing.
In summary: the right to asylum is limited, in a very clear and precise manner. It is a very big and heavy wound.
Many asylum seekers fail to tell their story properly because they are traumatized or disoriented …
During the interview many things can happen, and in 90% of cases all that matters is the story told by the claimants. At best, these are people who leave countries where it is no longer possible to live, not to mention serious human rights violations, persecutions, conflicts, and so on. It takes years for persons from the Gambia or Mali to cross the desert, while suffering unspeakable harassments, and arrive in Libya, where they undergo more abuses in the reception centers, and then “go on a cruise” in the Mediterranean … The least they should get is a decent context where to tell their story in a dignified and credible manner. Instead, the approach taken is completely wrong. All lawyers are worried because when you touch a piece in the system, the rest also falls. Often in the past the legislation on foreigners walked dangerous paths. Our system is based on three levels of jurisdiction for all, whether they are foreigners or not. This is a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution and international conventions.
The horizon is very dark: there is a risk that the asylum system is changed completely, in order to prevent migrants’ arrival and the start of the asylum application process.
Are you saying that also Italy is raising its wall, although not made of fences like those of other European countries?
Yes, we are concerned because there are so many ways you can build walls: with concrete or with rules. They try to make everything very difficult, limiting judicial review, removing the possibility to appeal, and so on. Nothing to strengthen the protection of the rights of these incredibly vulnerable persons. Why give them fewer tools than others? What is happening is a separation between people:migrants will not have the same rights as others, and this by statute.
It is well known that those most vulnerable are unable to assert their rights – this is unfortunately part of human history. In this case you start by putting it on paper, creating major obstacles to the protection of rights. And then I ask myself: are they short-sighted? Everybody knows that the forces pushing these people to move are so strong, that a written statute won’t certainly stop them. Migratory phenomena are as old as the world. It brings complexities but also a lot of resources: demographics, economics. Instead there is an unbearably discriminatory approach.
The decree also foresees the possibility to employ asylum seekers in community work, which de facto already exists.
This is presented as a good thing but if you use a workforce without paying for it is called exploitation or enslavement. Integration is ignored, contrary to what other countries across Europe are doing: there are more sectors in civil society, including business owners, who feel that what is happening is an enormous injustice and try to oppose it, they want to react, to start projects. It is a crucial and impactful point. There are very good initiatives, a ray of light in stark contrast with the dark landscape that lies ahead. Because immigration and asylum are issues that point right to the heart of what it means to live in a civilised society. They indicate what our reference values are.
Is there any chance of amending the decree?
We are carrying out public campaigns and petitions. Unfortunately from a legal point of view it is almost impossible to amend the decree. We will raise a series of constitutionality issues because there are illegal aspects. But it’s a long, complicated road. A political response is needed but what lies ahead is darkness. The only hope is a bottom-up push for change, if citizens become aware.
Translated by Alberto Pasquero