In the past years, expulsions on the grounds of extremism have acquired a key role in the Italian strategy to counter the jihadist threat.1 2015 in particular, marked an important change in the use of this tool.
Italian legislation features different types of expulsions that can be used in the fight on extremism:
Administrative expulsions for national security reasons or public safety, ordered by the Minister of Interior; expulsions provided by the Minister of Interior, or under delegation, by the Police Prefect, for the prevention of terrorism; administrative expulsions provided by the Police Prefect over the suspected threat to the public posed by a foreign individual; the security expulsions ordered by a judge as an alternative measure to incarceration.2
Every expulsion is then reported to the European Union’s Schengen Information System (S.I.S), as once the individual is expelled from Italy, they are issued a prohibition from reentering the country, and thus the entire Schengen Area, for a period of at least 5 years (generally the ban is extended to 10 however).
This type of measure can only be used against foreign nationals who are on Italian territory. One of the reasons that makes this tool so effective is the fact that, differently from other countries in Western Europe, many jihadist extremists active in Italy are first generation immigrants, who do not have Italian citizenship.
According to Italian counterterror officials, one of the strengths of this instrument is the rapidity with which administrative expulsions can be carried out, compared to a full proceeding in court. For this reason, expulsions are often used in a preventive manner, with the goal of protecting national security before an offence is committed (in extreme cases, a terrorist act).
Recently, expulsions have been increasingly used following the release from prison of individuals who had shown signs of radicalization while incarcerated. In 2018, 41 subjects were deported upon release from prison, representing 36.6% of the 112 individuals expelled over the course of the year.3
In the past few years, authorities in Europe (including Italy) have become increasingly concerned over the threat of radicalization in prison, and possible problems emerging from overcrowding in prison and/or a shortage of staff only increase these risks. Anis Amri (the 2016 Berlin Christmas market attacker), for example, partly confirmed these fears, as the Tunisian national reportedly radicalized while incarcerated in Sicily.
In order to mitigate this risk, the Immigrations Office of the Italian Police receives weekly reports from the Penitentiary Police, containing data and information on radicalized individuals who are due to be released from prison. The profiles are carefully analyzed in order to determine the level of danger that the individuals pose to public safety, and to decide whether there is cause to expel the individual.
In other cases, judges can issue sentences that provide the expulsion from Italian territory upon release from prison and completion of the sentence. A recent case, for example, is that of Abdel Salem Napulsi, a Palestinian citizen convicted in November 2018 to four years in prison for “self-training to commit a terrorist act” – and deportation upon release from prison.4
As previously stated, the number of expulsions has grown significantly in the past 4 years. 66 deportations were made both in 2015 and 2016. In 2017 the number rose to 105 and grew again in 2018: on November 26 of this year, Italian authorities had carried out 112 expulsions.
In this timeframe (January 2015 – November 2018), the region with the highest number of expulsions was Lombardy (in the north), with 62 cases, followed by Emilia Romagna (37), Sicily (32) and Veneto (27)5. Worthy of note is also Umbria (in the center), which with its 13 expulsions, had the highest amount of expulsions per capita. It is interesting instead, that Lazio (the region of Rome) had a (relatively) more modest quantity of deportations (23 in total).
In some cases, expulsions were carried out on individuals who had been previously deported, but then attempted to return to Italy, despite the prohibition that barred them from reentering the country.
Expulsions per region from 2015 to November 26, 2018
Most of the deported individuals came from North African countries, with the greatest amount coming from Morocco (110), Tunisia (99), and Egypt (26).
There was also a noteworthy number of citizens from Balkan countries, with 13 individuals from Albania, 14 from Kosovo and 12 from Macedonia.
A smaller number of expelled individuals were instead from Asian countries, with Pakistanis in the first place (16).
It is also interesting to note that there were also some EU citizens who were deported (6 French and one Romanian), despite the fact that they were nationals of countries in the Schengen area.
Expelled individuals by country of origin
1 See for reference: Francesco Marone, The Use of Deportation in Counter-Terrorism: Insights from the Italian Case, Perspective, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague (ICCT), 13 March 2017,https://icct.nl/publication/the-use-of-deportation-in-counter-terrorism-insights-from-the-italian-case/.