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Italy Approves Measures to Accelerate Asylum Procedures


Migrants disembarks from Dattilo coast guard vessel in the Sicilian harbor of Augusta, Italy, Feb. 25, 2017.

Italy's parliament approved on Tuesday measures to accelerate asylum procedures, cutting the number of possible appeals and speeding up deportations of rejected migrants.

Since 2014 the number of migrants reaching Italy's shores has surged, with half a million arriving in the country, and under European Union law Italy has to set up so-called "hotspots" where migrants with the right of asylum are set apart from those without.

As a result, Italy's asylum applications have jumped, burdening the national civil courts and with procedures further delayed by appeals that can take years.

Under the new rules the asylum ruling can be appealed only once, instead of twice, and the request has to be submitted within a month.

The law, named after Interior Minister Marco Minniti and Justice Minister Andrea Orlando, also creates 26 new sections in courts across the country, specialized in immigration.

It enables the Interior ministry to employ up to 250 people in the next two years to work in specialized state-run committees dealing with the asylum request.

Rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday it was worried for the "significant reduction in the procedural guarantees for the asylum seekers" claiming that the new procedures could be unconstitutional and discriminatory.

"Faster decision are in the interest of those requesting asylum but they must not lead to a limitation of [the migrants'] rights," the head of Amnesty International in Italy Antonio Marchesi said in a statement.

The new rules had already been adopted by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni's government at the beginning of February with an emergency decree on the grounds that the court backlog was stacking up quickly and asylum-seeker shelters were filling up.

Under Italian law, emergency decrees have to be converted into law by parliament within 60 days.

Italy has estimated that it will spend about 3.9 billion euros ($4.1 billion) this year on managing immigration, almost three times as much as in 2013. The annual bill could rise to 4.3 billion euros if arrivals increase, the equivalent to a quarter of the country's annual spending on defense.

($1 = 0.9428 euros)

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