[JURIST] Italys Senate [official website, in Italian] voted 157-124 Thursday to pass a controversial law making illegal immigration a crime [materials, in Italian], punishable by a fine of between 5,000 and 10,000 euros. The law also increases from two months to six [AKI report] the amount of time law enforcement officials may detain suspected illegal immigrants before deporting them. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile, in Italian] has supported the bill [Corriere della Sera report, in Italian] as important for promoting public safety. The Catholic church opposes [ANSA report] the law, which the church believes punishes the basic human right of migration. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has also opposed [news release] the measure. Italy's Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Italian] approved the bill [JURIST report] in May.
Illegal immigration is a growing problem [BBC report] in Italy, where about 36,000 illegal immigrants arrived by boat last year. In November, UN human rights experts expressed concern [JURIST report] over Italy's treatment of detained migrants and asylum seekers. While the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] said [UN press release] it was concerned about the facilities in which Italy holds irregular migrants and asylum seekers, UN experts also said Italy's criminal justice system boasts strong due process guarantees against arbitrary detentions.