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Matteo Salvini. Screenshot from RAI debate on his Security Decree
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Salvini already has a plan to cut Italy’s debt

The European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said at Monday's Eurogroup meeting with Economy Minister Giovanni Tria, that Italy needs to cut its high debt, EU sources said on Wednesday. The country's Interior Minister already has a plan.

Published: November 8, 2018, 6:38 am

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    At over 130 percent of GDP, Italy’s debt is the second highest in the eurozone after Greece’s.

    Draghi underscored that reducing the debt is “a responsibility that goes beyond what is required by European rules”, the sources said.

    But Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League party, has already indicated that he wishes to reduce the daily per capita spending, Italian daily Il Giornale reported.

    And he has singled out migrants for the spending cut: from 35 to 19 euros per day, cutting the costs almost in half.

    But it appears not to be the only goal of the Deputy Prime Minister, who aims at a complete reform of the migrant reception system. Not only does he want to save costs, but also to reduce the chances of obtaining refugee status, limiting the numbers of those entitled to benefits.

    The reduction of costs for the maintenance of foreigners who come to the country and wait for the recognition of refugee status is a key point for the Minister of the Interior, who announced his intention to overhaul the system of migrant reception on the first day of his inauguration.

    Salvini immediately asked the government department responsible for a full accounting of the costs and mechanisms in all of the other European countries. Italy is not the country which spends the most on migrants as Belgium and Finland pay 50 euros a day, for example.

    But there are without doubt those who spend less. France, Poland and Austria remain within 25 euros.

    This money is not given directly to the migrants, rather it is administered by the refugee centers – the Cas and Sprar in Italy – which have different rules and regulations in each country.

    Basically, this money is used to pay for clothing, food, housing and healthcare, as well as for integration support such as language assistance. The rest of the money – around 3 euros per day – is handed out to each migrant.

    The Deputy Prime Minister believes that too much is spent, and spent poorly. He aims to save 400 million in 2019 thanks to the cuts in spending, as well as over 500 million for 2020, and over 600 for the following years.

    On Wednesday the Senate approved the government’s security-and-migration decree with 163 votes in favour, 59 against and 19 abstentions.

    The legislation, which was approved with a confidence vote, now moves to the Lower House. Among other things, the decree, drafted by Salvini, makes it easier for the authorities to deport asylum seekers found guilty of crimes.

    The package was hotly debated within the ruling coalition due to the opposition of some members of the 5-Star Movement (M5S) to certain elements of it. Among other things, the decree, would not only make it easier to deport migrants, but will severely restrict the possibility to obtain legal status.

    The decree ends the two-year “humanitarian protection” residency permits awarded to 25 percent of asylum seekers last year, AFP reported. Instead, residency permits will now be issued under stricter conditions such as a one-year “special protection” status or a six-month “natural disaster in country of origin” status.

    The Italian Refugee Council  expressed “serious concern” over the new decree. In a statement it noted: “The abolition of humanitarian protection will put thousands of people outside the law and only a very few can be repatriated.”

    The United Nations refugee agency complained ahead of the vote that the decree does “not provide adequate guarantees” for asylum seekers. There are currently around 146 000 migrants held in the country’s reception centres.

    “Whoever flees a war is my brother, but whoever comes here to sell drugs and create disorder must go home,” Salvini explained, defending the measure that provides for stripping immigrants of their Italian nationality if they are convicted of terrorism.

    It also includes closing centers focused on “integration” and Taser guns to more police officers. Salvini said via Twitter that it was an “historic day” for the country.

    In September, the government loosened gun laws, making it possible to own more guns, and in October, Salvini signed a cooperation pledge with Giulio Magnani, the president of Italy’s most active gun lobby, the Directive 477 Committee. “It’s tradition, it’s culture,” Salvini said.

    The number of sport shooting licenses — the license of choice for ordinary citizens who want to keep a gun at home for self-defense — has skyrocketed from approximately 400 000 in 2014 to some 600 000 this year. Criminals generally do not bother with licenses.

    A recent study estimated that 4.5 million Italians out of a population of approximately 60 million live in a home with a firearm. Some 39 percent of Italians said they were in favor of making it easier to obtain a gun for self-defense — up from 26 percent in 2015.

    The Senate recently made it easier for people who injure or kill intruders, to justify their actions. “Defense is always legitimate! From words to actions,” Salvini tweeted.

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