Italy's parliament has given final approval to frightening legislation that allows vigilante-style citizen patrols to operate in the alleged fight against illegal immigration.
The legislation passed yesterday also calls for jail terms of up to three years for people who knowingly house illegal immigrants and lengthens the amount of time that migrants can spend in detention.
The conservative government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi insists that the measure will increase security.
The new legislation makes entering or staying in Italy without permission a crime punishable by a fine of 5,000-10,000 euors (£4,286-£8,572) and lengthens the amount of time that migrants can spend in detention from two to six months.
The legislation has drawn criticism by centre-left politicians and human rights groups.
Amnesty International said that the measures "affect negatively the vulnerable people in the country" and "heavily impinge on the rights of migrants."
Adding to such fears has been the recent creation of a citizens' patrol group billing itself as the Italian National Guard, whose uniforms bear fascist and nazi-like symbols.
After the group announced that it would soon start patrolling the streets, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni claimed that any right-wing patrol that can be associated with fascist and nazi-era guards would not be permitted.
Mr Maroni said that he would start meeting local officials next week to work out details and set limits for the unarmed patrols.
The measures were passed with a 157-124 vote in the Senate.
The government also won three confidence votes in the past two days tied to the measures.
Critics insist that the measures would further marginalise those living in Italy illegally without actually improving security.
A group of Italy's best-known writers have signed an open letter attacking the legislation.
"The Berlusconi government, using security as a pretext, has imposed laws the like of which we have not seen in this country since the passing of the fascist Race Law," the letter read.
The letter was signed by Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri and Nobel prize winner Dario Fo.
Morning Star - 03.07.09