Italy Approves Anti-Immigration Bill

MSNBC, July 2, 2009

Tough new measures to fight illegal immigration and crime became law in Italy Thursday after the Senate gave the green light to a bill contested by the center-left opposition and the Catholic Church.

The law makes illegal immigration a crime punishable with a fine of up to 10,000 euros ($14,000) and raises to six months the amount of time that illegal migrants can be detained in holding centers before repatriation.

It also allows the creation of unarmed citizen patrols to help police and soldiers fight crime on the streets, makes it a jail offence to force children to beg, a measure viewed as targeting gypsies and Roma people.

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In a heated debate at the Senate, center-left lawmakers accused the government of violating the rights of immigrants and said the citizen patrols risked becoming vigilante groups taking the law into their hands.

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