Italy: New project examines alternatives to immigration detention

A project launched by the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (Coalizione Italiana per le Libertà e i Diritti Civili, CILD) and Progetto Diritti will examine and advocate for alternatives to immigration detention. The organisations highlight that detention, which is most frequently used in cases of pending deportation, doesn't work: "the ratio between the number of repatriated and detained people has always been around 50%, regardless of which maximum detention limits are in force. The data hence demonstrates that the 'effectiveness' of the immigration detention system is not directly correlated to the length of detention periods."


Alternatives to irregularity: towards a new model of migration management (CILD, link, emphasis added):

"In Italy and in many other countries around the world, it is common practice to detain foreigners, not because they committed a crime, but simply because they are irregularly present in the country.

An alternative model exists and, if it were to be applied on a wider scale, both those involved and the community at large would benefit from it.

(...)

The current centres for repatriation, which were first called temporary residence and assistance centres and then referred to as identification and expulsion centres, were established with the introduction of the Turco-Napolitano Law (Law no. 40/1998). While the maximum detention period was initially set at 30 days, it was gradually increased, first to 60 days (Law no.189/2002 – the so-called “Bossi-Fini” Law), then to 180 days (Law no. 125/2008), and, finally, to 18 months under Minister of the Interior Maroni (Decree Law n. 89/2011). 

The upward trend was bucked with European Law 2013-bis (Law no. 163/2014), when for the first time since 1998, maximum time limits for immigration detention were not increased. On the contrary they were considerably reduced: an unextendable maximum detention period was set at 3 months, or 30 days for third-country nationals who had already spent at least 3 months in prison. Despite widespread discussions on the uselessness of longer detention periods in the absence of readmission agreements with various countries of origin, Decree no.113/2018 (the well-known Salvini Decree) re-extended the detention period to 180 days again.

Does administrative detention work at all?

No. As reported by the National Guarantor for the Rights of Persons Detained or Deprived of their Liberty, the ratio between the number of repatriated and detained people has always been around 50%, regardless of which maximum detention limits are in force. The data hence demonstrates that the “effectiveness” of the immigration detention system is not directly correlated to the length of detention periods. It is correlated, rather, to other factors, including in large part the level of cooperation with migrants’ countries of origin.

In addition, over the years, statistics have shown that, on average, repatriation of detained migrants either takes place within the first 30-60 days, or becomes very difficult to secure at all. It is very rare for obstacles to be overcome once 60 days have passed. The lack of cooperation of the diplomatic representation of foreigners’ countries of origin is an example of such. The increase of maximum detention periods, hence, voids the practice of immigration detention of its original purpose (i.e. overcoming the obstacles that prevent repatriation). It instead acquires a sanctioning and symbolic nature, punishing irregular migrants with the deprivation of their personal freedom, even though they are individuals who have not committed a crime. They are simply “guilty” of being irregular."

On the project itself, see: Italy – Towards a more effective and humane migration management (European Alternatives to Detention Network, link):

"In Italy, the pilot will provide holistic case management to migrants at risk of detention, including beneficiaries of humanitarian protection (a type of protection which was recently abolished), vulnerable individuals, and persons under labour exploitation.

Linking practical implementation with advocacy, the pilot will take advantage of the reach and diversity of expertise within CILD’s civil society coalition and of Progetto Diritti’s case work experience. It aims to support migrants to work resolve their cases while strengthening national evidence and increasing ATD practice among CSOs in Italy."

​And: At the front line in Europe: testing alternatives to detention in Greece and Italy (European Alternatives to Detention Network, link):

"How can we move away from the increasing reliance on immigration detention in EU border countries, which receive a high proportion of arrivals and are under pressure from the EU to prevent onward movement? In the current political environment, it’s not easy

But convinced that there is another way, civil society organisations in Greece and Italy are starting alternative to detention (ATD) pilot projects aiming for systemic change on immigration detention."

 

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