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Italy wants to continue deportations despite EU ruling

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Italy wants to continue deportations despite EU ruling

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(ROME) - Italy wants to continue deporting clandestine immigrants despite a European court's rejection Thursday of a law that jails illegal immigrants who overstay in the country, a minister said.

"Italy wants to continue deportations," said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni following the court ruling in Luxembourg, saying they had stemmed a massive influx of migrants fleeing unrest in North Africa.

"Since April 5, we have already repatriated more than 600 Tunisians and that has had a deterrent effect," said Maroni, who is also a senior leader of the ruling party's right-wing coalition ally, the Northern League.

He said he would "assess the consequences of the court sentence and see how to tackle the problem".

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had the law adopted in 2009. It punishes illegal immigrants who refuse to leave Italy with up to four years in prison. But Thursday's ruling dealt a blow to his hardline stance on immigration.

"Already Europe is not helping but today it is making our life difficult," said Maroni.

"Why does (Europe) only take on Italy? From now on illegal immigrants will no longer be deported and their number will increase on the territory, which could bring problems to cities," he added.

Maroni has already voiced outrage over Berlusconi's decision this week to join NATO-led air strikes against the regime of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, saying they would provoke further migration into Italy, the north African country's former colonial master.

But for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman Laura Boldrini "the European ruling is very coherent and in line with what Italian judges have said".

The country's constitutional and supreme courts have already "stressed that to punish migrants with detention after their failed deportation is a disproportionate and useless measure", she said.

Judgement of the European Court of Justice in Case C-61/11PPU - full texts


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