The Italian government on Friday approved a decree allowing the expulsion of immigrants on the grounds of public security concerns.
The decree will enable local authorities to expel legal immigrants—even from European Union countries like Romania—if they are deemed to pose a threat to society.
The new decree also provides for immediate expulsions on the basis of suspicion of terrorism threats.
The decree is expected to lead to some 1,200 expulsions, many of them Romanian gypsies (Roma) who have recently topped crime statistics.
Officials said the decree would soon be followed by a measure aimed at stopping violence against gays—a provision which threatened to derail an original version of the decree.
Welfare Minister Paolo Ferrero said the decree would also be followed by a new immigration law to bring illegal immigrants into the open, promote integration and fight immigrant-related crime.
He called for a “comprehensive commitment” from the government on immigration reform.
The new immigration bill, drafted by Ferrero and Interior Minister Giuliano Amato, will be put to parliament next month. Friday’s decree is a new version of one issued in November which was set to expire.
That first decree came in response to a spate of violent crimes culminating in the murder and suspected sexual assault of a middle-aged naval officer’s wife by a Roma.
The decree was scrapped amid fears that scores of immigrants expelled under the November decree could soon return with impunity because the measure would not be converted into law by the end of the year.
The move, embarrassing for the government, became necessary when President Giorgio Napolitano announced that there were “erroneous references” in the bill which was about to go to the House for final approval.
The implication was clearly that he might not sign the legislation into law, leaving dozens of recent expulsions without any legal basis.
The fresh measure does not contain the provisions regarding discrimination against gays which were slipped into the first decree at the last minute.
These provisions, which were the source of a fresh bout of quarrelling in the centre-left coalition, will now be put into a separate draft law.
According to Italian media, almost 500 immigrants have been expelled under the first decree.