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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Angela Giuffrida in Rome

Italian PM steps up crackdown on migrants with deportation decree

Giorgia Meloni, Italian prime minister
Giorgia Meloni, the Italian prime minister, admitted last week that she had hoped to ‘do better’ on immigration. Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

Foreigners who lie about their age to benefit from a protection scheme reserved for unaccompanied minors arriving in Italy will be deported under a security decree expected to be approved by Giorgia Meloni’s cabinet on Wednesday as part of her far-right government’s crackdown on irregular immigration.

The draft decree, parts of which were published by the Italian press, includes a measure stipulating that foreigners living legally in Italy will be deported if they are considered to be a threat to public order or national security.

Meloni’s ruling coalition, which came to power last October, is moving to enact more hardline measures amid a surge in the number of people arriving on Italy’s shores.

Meloni, who before being elected prime minister called for a naval blockade in the Mediterranean, admitted last week that she had hoped to “do better” on immigration after the number of refugees arriving in Italy so far this year exceeded 133,000 – more than double the same period last year.

Until now, children arriving in Italy without a parent or legal guardian have been able to benefit from a special protection regime, introduced in 2017, based on the presumption of a minority. If approved, the decree would give police powers to estimate their age using body measurements and X-rays.

The draft decree also says children over the age of 16 could be placed in reception centres reserved for adults and that such centres – criticised in the past for their appalling conditions – could host double the number of people they ordinarily would at certain times.

Last week, Meloni’s government signed off on measures giving authorities the power to keep people in pre-deportation detention centres for up to 18 months. The government has also ruled that people waiting for their asylum requests to be processed would have to pay a deposit, reportedly worth €5,000, to avoid being detained.

Meanwhile, a row between Italy and Germany over immigration is showing no sign of abating after Andrea Crippa, the deputy leader of the League, a partner in Meloni’s coalition, said Germany had gone from “invading others states with its army” during the second world war to “using illegal immigrants” to destabilise Italy and its government.

His comments came after it emerged that Berlin was funding charities to rescue people in the Mediterranean, prompting Meloni to write to the German chancellor, Olaf Sholz, expressing her “astonishment”.

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