Italy’s Parliament Approves Crackdown on Teenage Migrants


ROME (Reuters) – Italian lawmakers on Thursday approved a government decree that allows migrants aged 16 or 17 to be held in adult reception centres and gives police stronger powers to check that migrants are not falsely claiming to be under age.

Under Italian and European legislation, unaccompanied young migrants are entitled to more favourable treatment. For example, they cannot be expelled and should have access to more extensive welfare and support services.

The decree, part of the response of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government to surging immigration by sea, completed its parliamentary approval process, with the Senate backing it in a 97-to-65 vote, with one absention.

It allows minors aged 16 or 17 to be held in adult migrant reception camps when places for underage migrants are not available, and says they can be held there for up to 150 days. Under Italian law, a person becomes an adult at 18.

The decree also allows adult migrant centres to host up to twice as many people as they are normally allowed during peak immigration periods, and authorises police to use X-rays to estimate the age of young migrants and expel those found to have lied about it.

Unicef, the U.N. agency for children, said in a paper sent to the Italian parliament that the decree might breach the Convention on the Rights of the Child and “could result in a compression of the fundamental rights of minors”.

Earlier this month, Meloni announced Italy would build migrant identification and reception centres in Albania, saying she hoped they could host as many as 36,000 sea migrants per year.

Some 152,000 migrants have disembarked in Italy so far this year, up sharply from 94,000 in the same period in 2022, official data show, an embarrassing increase for a government that has pledged to curb arrivals from northern Africa.

About 11% of this year’s arrivals were unaccompanied minors.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante and Alvise Armellini; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.


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