Detention period may now last up to 18 months, up from 3 months.
Recent arrival of 10,000 migrants on Lampedusa prompts action.
EU plans and agreements with origin countries have had limited impact.
The Italian government, facing a significant influx of migrants, has approved measures aimed at extending the duration of their detention and facilitating the repatriation of individuals without legal grounds to stay in the country. This decision follows the arrival of nearly 10,000 migrants on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa in the past week, posing a challenge to right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who took office last year with a promise to clamp down on illegal immigration.
In response to the situation, Prime Minister Meloni proposed that migrants awaiting repatriation should be held for an initial period of six months, with the possibility of extending this detention period to up to 18 months, an increase from the current three-month limit. She emphasized that this extended timeframe would allow authorities to conduct necessary assessments and facilitate the repatriation of individuals who do not qualify for international protection.
Government sources have confirmed that the cabinet swiftly approved this measure, along with plans to establish additional detention centers in remote areas. Meloni argued that Italy needed to bolster the capacity of these facilities, which had been weakened by what she described as “years of immigrationist policies.”
Italian law permits the detention of migrants facing repatriation if immediate expulsion is not possible. Authorities assert that the majority of migrants arriving in Italy are motivated by economic reasons and do not qualify for asylum.
In an effort to address the crisis, Prime Minister Meloni visited Lampedusa alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Von der Leyen pledged a 10-point EU action plan, although these measures appeared to resemble previous initiatives that had limited impact. An agreement reached in July between the EU and Tunisia, a departure point for many migrants, has yet to come into effect.
So far this year, Italy has seen the arrival of nearly 130,000 migrants, nearly double the number recorded during the same period in 2022. These migrants hail from various countries, including Pakistan, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Egypt, Burkina Faso, and Bangladesh.
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