No way back: New law adds pressure on asylum seekers in Italy

Louise Hunt

Freelance journalist and regular IRIN contributor specialising in social affairs and international development

Over the last five years, some two million migrants and refugees have made it from the north coast of Africa by sea to the perceived promise and safety of Europe. Almost 650,000 people have survived the longest, most dangerous crossing via the central Mediterranean to Italy.

Lamin Saidykhan, a 21-year-old Gambian, is one of them.

Saidykhan fled difficult conditions in his home country in 2016, hoping to find a better life in Italy. But things have not been easy. The recent repeal of two-year “humanitarian protection” status for a broad class of asylum seekers leaves people like him even more vulnerable.

 

From 2015 to 2017, almost 26,000 Gambians sought asylum in Italy. Under the old law, those who didn’t immediately qualify for asylum could still stay in Italy for a certain period and receive some social benefits. But the rules were tightened late last year to include only victims of human trafficking, domestic violence, and other very specific criteria.

Read more: New Italian law adds to unofficial clampdown on aid to asylum seekers

Prominent Italians, including the mayors of Milan and Naples, have publicly opposed the new measures on ethical grounds, while the governors of Tuscany and Piedmont have said they will challenge them in court.

But dozens of migrants and asylum seekers have already been evicted from state-organised housing, and thousands more remain concerned. Unwilling to return home and unable to build a future in Italy, they fear they may end up on the street with no access to services or support.

 

*The production of this film was supported by a Migration Media Award