The bill which earns its name from Italy's anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini abolishes humanitarian protection for those not eligible for refugee status and unable to return home.

Migrants sit in the street of Via Cupa just outside the former Baobab migrants reception centre next to the Tiburtina train station in Rome on August 8, 2016.
Migrants sit in the street of Via Cupa just outside the former Baobab migrants reception centre next to the Tiburtina train station in Rome on August 8, 2016. (AFP)

Tens of thousands of migrants living in Italy are trying to figure out whether they might end up on the street following the approval of a new government law that cracks down on those with humanitarian protection.

The "Salvini Decree," earning its name from Italy's anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, eliminates the visa category of humanitarian protection, instead giving more limited special permits to some migrants.

Humanitarian protection is a third layer of protection for migrants following refugee status, something laid out in the Geneva Convention, and subsidiary status – a level set out by the European Union that all member states have committed to.

Under Italian law, the humanitarian protection used to be a residual category incorporating a wide variety of risks for a migrant if he or she returns home.

According to a migration expert, the government changed the rules as it felt too many people had been granted humanitarian protection visas in the past.

Migrants sit after they disembarked from the vessel Topaz Responder in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta, Italy on  September 7, 2016.
Migrants sit after they disembarked from the vessel Topaz Responder in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta, Italy on September 7, 2016. (Reuters)

Migrants live in reception centers

There are currently 140,000 migrants living in reception centres in Italy, according to the Italian Interior Ministry.

Now, according to Matteo Villa from Italy's Institute for the Study of International Politics (ISPI), an estimated 20,000 may have to leave due to the "Salvini" decree, which was passed into law on 28 November.

Those allowed the new special permits will include: migrants with serious health conditions, victims of domestic violence, victims of work exploitation, migrants who have escaped from a natural calamity in their country of origin such as a tsunami or earthquake, people who have carried out heroic acts in Italy, and victims of sex trafficking.

Barry Tierno, a 19 year old migrant from Conakry in Guinea, who was granted a humanitarian protection permit, fears for his future.

It took him six months to travel across western Africa, cross Libya and reach Europe in 2015 on a rickety boat with an aim to improve his life.

His permit will expire in October 2019 but he is already worried about the renewal, working out a plan to try to get a working visa instead.

Among those worried about the fate of their humanitarian protection permits there are also migrants living in the so-called SPRAR hosting homes, a small accommodation system run by local municipalities.

The Adebongo family, a mother with her three daughters, arrived in Italy in 2016 from Lagos, Nigeria, and currently lives in Rome in such an apartment.

Those enrolled in SPRAR, apart from accommodation, are also offered Italian lessons and long-term professional training and integration programmes.

Elizabeth Adebongo, the mother of the three girls, was able due to the protection system to take up a sewing course and her daughters were enrolled into Italian schools.

Her eldest, 21-year old Emanuela, is working in a hotel and also thinking of converting her visa into a working one.

There is still a lot of confusion surrounding the implementation of the new law.

The majority of migrants are staying in what is known in Italy as CAS - first reception centres - which are administered by prefectures, which fall under the responsibility of the Italian Ministry of Interior.

The "Salvini Decree" requires migrants with humanitarian protection to leave the reception centres.  

However, across Italy only two prefectures out of more than one hundred took action on the decree after the law was passed.

In Calabria, in the toe of Italy's boot, 24 migrants were forced to leave a migrant centre in the town of Isola di Capo Rizzuto, including a 19-year-old mother with a six-month old baby.  

They were taken in by the Red Cross.

At Mineo, Italy's largest migrant centre, home to 1,400 migrants, some 87 migrants have been sent away, according to Catholic Charity Sant'Egidio which helps migrants in the area, due to the enforcement of the new law.

In addition to removing humanitarian protection, the new law makes it more difficult for migrants to acquire Italian citizenship, increase the funds allocated for repatriation, and lengthens the list of crimes that will allow the revocation of protection status.

Source: AP