Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio promised sweeping changes to Italy's asylum system | Photo: ANSA/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio promised sweeping changes to Italy's asylum system | Photo: ANSA/RICCARDO ANTIMIANI

The Italian government has presented a new asylum decree, which would see the waiting time for an asylum decision cut from two years to just four months, resulting in faster repatriations in applicable cases. Speaking at a press conference in Rome, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said the decree would also update the list of countries considered safe for repatriations.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maion presented a new asylum decree intended to cut the time it takes for decisions on whether a migrant should be repatriated to four months: "It was a team effort," Di Maio told reporters at a press conference at the foreign ministry last week.

"I thank (Justice) Minister (Alfonso) Bonafede, Premier (Giuseppe) Conte and (Interior) Minister (Luciana) Lamorgese because this morning we signed a ministerial decree that enables us to bring down the measures to establish if a migrant can stay in Italy from two years to four months."

The decree would be the "first step in our plan for safe repatriations," he said, adding that only those who need protection could stay. "We are working to avoid creating a pull factor for migrants, by giving a clear message that those who need help are welcome but those who, based on international rules, cannot stay here will be repatriated", Di Maio said.

Di Maio, who is also the leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S) political party, said that in the past last 14 months, repatriations had effectively stopped due to long wait periods. He also said that he didn't believe that redistribution plans with other EU member states, which are expected to be finalized this week, were a long-term solution.

Thirteen safe countries for repatriation program

In the new repatriation program, 13 European and African nations are listed as 'safe' countries of origin: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Ukraine, Ghana, Senegal and Cape Verde.

In his speech, Di Maio thanked Morocco in particular and said he would also be paying a visit to the country soon. He also announced that he would be traveling to Tunisia to meet an Italian-Tunisian working group "to implement the agreement on repatriations."

The foreign minister meanwhile said that migrants' rights would still be protected by Italy's constitution, which "safeguard the rights of the individual.

Justice Minister Alfonso Bonafede meanwhile said that the new decree and its list of safe countries would enable the country to "halve the entire procedure" involved in determining whether a migrant is entitled to be granted international protection or should rather be repatriated.


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