Italy's immigrants despair at new laws



New law in Italy about illegal immigrants. That illegal immigrants are liable to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (8,700; $14,200) and can now be detained by the authorities for up to six months in holding centres before being kicked out of the country.
In addition, people who knowingly house undocumented migrants can now face up to three years in prison. The new law also permits the formation of unarmed citizen patrol groups to help police keep order. There may be as many as 600,000 illegal immigrants in Italy; they don't exactly announce their presence. Many live unnoticed, unremarkable lives. But under the new legislation, Italians must turn them over to the authorities if they try to register their children for school, or look for medical treatment.
Italy issues very few visas to people who are already living in the country, and demand for work permits from potential immigrants greatly outstrips supply. It quickly becomes a Catch-22 situation - illegal immigrants who have no visa are unable to get a job; those without a job are unable to get a visa.
As a result, both illegal and legal migrants have become an increasingly obvious presence on the streets of Italian cities. At night, groups of men from across Africa, the Arab world and Asia roll out sleeping bags and cardboard boxes in Milan's numerous historic piazzas. By day, they get by however they can - some by selling fake designer handbags or toys, some by stealing.


Saskia Sassen, an expert on European immigration at Columbia University in New York

Italy's new laws could be the beginning of "a catastrophic phase" for not only migrants but also Italian citizens. "This law really alters the landscape by criminalising the violation," she says. you were a criminal. This law means if you break the law, now you are considered a criminal. That's a big deal."



Paolo Grimaldi, an MP for the right-wing Northern League

admits that almost no illegal immigrants would be able to pay a 10,000-euro fine. In fact, he says, that is the point.
European Union laws oblige all 25 countries party to the Schengen Agreement, which allows passport-free travel across the area, to allow illegal immigrants to make two "mistakes", and the new Italian law makes such "mistakes" more likely.
"We want to expel these illegal immigrants to their country of provenance," Mr Grimaldi says. "If they have already been arrested for something before, if they don't pay the fine, we will have recidivism." The immigrant will have made two "mistakes", and "so then we can make the expulsion".



Bari Abdul

He arrived in Rome three years ago from Guinea and lives on the streets. We met near a soup kitchen where hot meals are handed out to others like him. He doesn't speak much but is very worried about the new law. "I can't even go to get treatment at hospital now - the Italians there will feel they have to turn me in," he says, ignoring the fact that he is in the country illegally.



Alphousseyn Sonko

He born here. He has Senegalese parents but an Italian passport. Sonko believes the new law will make life tougher for people like him: "This so-called security law is more about those with papers and how they live rather than how you stop those coming across the Mediterranean Sea."




Michael, Sierra Leone

"The life that I'm living in Italy is very poor. I don't have documents. In Europe, if you don't have documents, you are nothing - you are an empty vessel."
19 year old, He crossed the sea from Libya in a small boat, along with 65 other people. Once they landed in Italy, he claimed asylum.
But Michael's claim, along with the majority of asylum seekers who land on Italy's shores, was rejected.
Since then, he has been living illegally in the northern city of Milan, struggling to survive under Italy's increasingly tough policy on illegal immigrants. I see that policy in action as we pass an internet cafe near the hostel where he is staying. Four policemen enter the cafe and single out those of African descent, asking to check their official documents.
"They're in here three or four times a week looking for people without papers," Michael says