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Italy court strikes down increased jail sentences for illegal immigrants

The Italian Constitutional Court [official website, in Italian] on Thursday struck down controversial legislation that imposed increased prison sentences and fines on illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] convicted of crimes in Italy. The court held that it was unconstitutional [AKI report] to allow judges to impose sentences and fines on illegal immigrants three times greater then those handed down to people living in the country legally. In the same case, the court upheld that constitutionality of a law passed by the government in July [JURIST report] that would criminalize illegal immigration with a fine of between 5,000 and 10,000 euros and up to six months detention before deportation. The court's judgment will be released later this month.

Illegal immigration is a growing problem in Italy, where ethnic tensions and discrimination are widespread. In January, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] dismissed a suit against Italy [JURIST report] by Palestinian immigrants alleging illegal expulsion from the country. Earlier that month, a group of African immigrants was evacuated [JURIST report] from the town of Rosarno after violence was directed towards migrant farm workers there. In August, rights groups criticized Italy [JURIST report] for returning a suspected terrorist to Tunisia, disregarding obligations imposed by the ECHR. Italy's treatment of its minority ethnic Roma population has resulted in similar criticism from human rights groups. In February, the Italian government dismantled a number of Roma encampments, and last year it was accused of discrimination when it began recording the fingerprints [JURIST reports] of Roma children in a purported effort to reduce street crime.

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