Beginning in November 1995, the Italian government issued six 60-day decrees that permit illegal immigrants to remain in the country if they register with local police. Some 250,000 migrants registered.
Italy's Constitutional Court in October 1996 said that the government cannot keep issuing decrees; it must have the Italian Parliament approve an amnesty law. The National Alliance, part of the main center-right Freedom Alliance opposition, first offered 7,000 amendments to prevent the consideration of a bill that would put the legalization into law, but the Italian Chamber of Deputies on December 4 approved the legalization plan by a 261-126 vote.
The vote means that illegal foreigners who registered can remain in Italy and that police may expel foreigners without appeal if they are considered a threat to public order.
Lampedusa, an Italian island with 5,000 residents that is closer to Tunisia than to Rome, received an estimated 3,000 illegal aliens so far in 1996. Many of illegal aliens arrive from Tunisia via fishing boats.
Until November 1996, a 1990 law made it illegal to enter Lampedusa unlawfully. Now, illegal entry is not an offense, but smuggling people ashore is. Immigrants who illegally enter Lampedusa are asked to leave the Italian island within 15 days. Many do, but continue their travels to other EU nations such as Germany or France.
At a December summit, Albania and Italy pledged to increase cooperation between their police forces to fight organized crime and illegal immigrants. The details of the accord were not available.
John Hooper, "Italy's Outcrop Offers Open Door to Illegals," The Guardian, December 13, 1996. "Italy and Albania reach accord on fighting illegal immigration," BBC, December 11, 1996. "New Italian law means 250,000 immigrants can stay," Reuters, December 5, 1996. Paul Holmes, "Italian government seeks to salvage immigrant reprieve," Reuters, November 20, 1996.