Politicians in Italy passed legislation this week that could stop the country offering sanctuary to LGBTI people fleeing persecution in their home countries.
Italy’s coalition government has voted to turn away immigrants applying for asylum on ‘humanitarian’ grounds.
Italy’s Lower House in Rome passed the legislation, championed by Matteo Salvini, late Wednesday night.
Salvini is the right-wing politician leader of the League party (formerly known as Northern League). When Italy’s coalition government formed in June it featured members of the League and 5-Star parties. Salvini became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.
Right-wing drive to reduce immigration
The League party is ultra-conservative and has a reputation for being anti-LGBTI rights. In June, one of its ministers, Lorenzo Fontana, was widely criticized for stating his belief that children are best raised by opposite sex couples rather than same-sex couples.
Salvini and his League colleagues vow to reduce immigration into Italy. The country is the first destination for many fleeing from troubled hotspots in Africa and the Middle East, and in recent years, hundreds of people have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats and dinghies.
‘I’m willing to host women and children who are escaping from war … But all the others, no,’ Salvini said on Thursday, reports Reuters. ‘I don’t want to be seen as an idiot.’
Rejection of humanitarian asylum seekers
Italy’s lower house voted 396 to 99 in favor of the legislation. It allows the acceptance of some immigrants fleeing war zones, but not others on purely ‘humanitarian’ grounds.
Over 20,000 – or 25% – of Italy’s immigrants received ‘humanitarian’ protection last year, so this legislation will impact many. Others who have received asylum in previous years may lose their legal status when their documents expire.
The League says there may be some resident permit exceptions, for people in need of urgent medical care or escaping natural disasters. However, there is no mention of exceptions on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity.
‘Harder and harder for LGBTI refugees in Italy’
‘We are very worried!’ Yuri Guaiana, President Associazione Radicale Certi Diritti, an Italian human rights advocacy organisation, told Gay Star News. ‘It will be harder and harder for LGBTI refugees in Italy.’
Guaiana says the new policy may strip LGBTI asylum seekers of protections.
‘Before, they could grant LGBTI refugees a two-year humanitarian permit that could be converted into a work permit. Now, if they manage to get a permit, it will be a special permit of one year only not convertible into a work permit.
‘This will have to be submitted each year to an assessment of the commission stating that the reasons for which they were granted the permit in the first place persist, otherwise they will be sent back to the country of origin. Therefore, the permit will always be provisional.’
Furthermore, he says authorities are drawing up a list of ‘safe’ countries, and has concerns that what Italy’s current government consider ‘safe’ may not be safe when it comes to LGBTI rights.