The Italian government passed a law Wednesday that clamps down on asylum by tightening criteria related to humanitarian grounds for refugees, while also increasing funds for police.
The lower house of the Italian parliament voted 396 to 99 to pass the law, introduced by Matteo Salvini, the interior minister and far-right League party leader who took office in June in a coalition with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.
The new law eliminates some humanitarian grounds for granting protection to refugees — asylum that is not tied to political persecution or war. It also funnels millions of euros to law enforcement and anti-mafia administrators. The law however, still allows asylum for war refugees or victims of political persecution.
“I’m willing to host women and children who are escaping from war ... But all the others, no,” Salvini said Thursday, referring to the new legislation. “I don’t want to be seen as an idiot.”
Humanitarian asylum had in some cases been granted to those who had “serious reasons” to flee their home country — a category that could includ homosexuals fleeing, for example, harsh anti-gay laws in Africa.
“In Italy there are rules and they must be respected. If you run away from the war you're a brother of mine, but if you do not run away from any war and the war comes to my home, I'll send you back to where you came from,” Salvini wrote on Twitter.
More than 20,000 people, or 25 percent of those who sought asylum, got “humanitarian” protection last year, and the tens of thousands of others received it in previous years will now likely lose their legal status when their documents expire.
The League’s lawmakers celebrated the passage of the law Thursday by unfurling a banner outside the lower house of parliament that read: “The Salvini decree is law; the good times (for migrants) are over.”
Salvini campaigned on an anti-immigration platform against the backdrop of hundreds of thousands of migrant-ship arrivaling from North Africa in recent years. He closed the country’s ports to migrant rescue ships after taking office.
The new law also foresees the use of electric tasers for the first time by local police, and increases jail time for people who promote illegal occupations of public or private buildings.
The Italian Refugee Council has said it is "seriously concerned" by the new law calling it a "bad law that will increase injustice and racism."