The Italian Parliament on Thursday evening approved a government decree on refugee policy allowing immigrants over the age of 16 to be housed in adult reception centres. Police will be given the power to check whether immigrants are falsely claiming to be underage.
Under Italian and European law, unaccompanied young migrants are entitled to preferential treatment. For example, they cannot be deported and cannot access more comprehensive social assistance and support services. The decree, introduced by the government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in response to increasing maritime migration, was accepted by the Senate with 97 votes in favor and 65 against. There was one abstaining vote. The package of measures is now in force as it was recently approved by the House of Representatives.
The law stipulates that if there is no space in special facilities for immigrant minors, minors aged 16 or 17 may be housed in adult reception centers. It is also stated that they can be kept there for up to 150 days. According to Italian law, a person becomes an adult at the age of 18.
The decree also allows adult immigrant reception centers to accept twice as many people as normally allowed and gives police the power to use x-rays to estimate the age of young immigrants and deport those who lie about their age. In its letter to the Italian Parliament, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that the decree violated the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and could lead to the restriction of the fundamental rights of minors.
Last week, Italy surpassed the threshold of 150,000 migrants arriving in the country by sea since the beginning of the year. According to the Roman Ministry of Internal Affairs, a total of 150,777 people disembarked following sea voyages that crossed the Mediterranean between January 1 and November 21. With 94,343 arrivals in the same period in 2022, this corresponds to a 62 percent increase.