EU court: Italy can't jail illegal migrants who refuse to leave
Italy cannot put in jail illegal migrants who flout an order to leave the country, the European Union's Court of Justice ruled on Thursday - taking down a key plank of the country's hardline policies on immigration, DPA reported.
Implementing a campaign promise to get tough on illegal migrants, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right administration introduced a law in 2009 making illegal overstay in the country a crime punishable by one to four years in prison.
But jailing migrants contradicts an EU directive on repatriation, whose main objective is "to set up an effective policy to drive out and repatriate third country nationals whose stay (in the EU) is irregular, while respecting their fundamental rights," the court said in a statement.
EU judges had been called by an Italian court in the northern city of Trento to give an opinion on the case of Hassen El Dridi, an Algerian who in 2010 was ordered to leave Italy within five days because he did not have a residence permit.
Having ignored that order, he was handed down a one-year prison sentence, which El Dridi appealed against.
The EU court said that following its opinion, judges in Trento should "disapply" the jail term prescriptions contained in Italy's immigration laws.