Friday, 23 October 2015

Although it is standard practice for the law enforcement agencies themselves to provide information to the press about an investigation that led to a person being arrested or charged, this is not the case when the offender is an asylum seeker. If the news story is not sensational and can "pass quietly," then the news is held back. Censored. So, when the person stealing or selling drugs is an Italian citizen, the investigation becomes public, complete with a reference to the personal details of the offender. But the treatment is different when the person who commits crimes has an asylum request in his pocket. The reason is obvious: interpreting the letter of the law on provisions of the asylum application - which is part of the Unified Code on Immigration - a person who has the "status" of applicant must be protected. Based on the assumption that someone seeking protection in a State other than his own is believed to be in danger of his life, making his identity and place of residence public might endanger his safety in Italy and also create safety problems for the family that might have remained in the country of origin. This discretion is maintained even if the applicant is involved in a police operation.
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"There isn't a written standard that requires us to not reveal the news," says Giovanni Pepè, police commissioner in Cuneo, "it's just a policy directive based on common sense. Caution is used in cases where a refugee has been arrested, only because revealing his place of residence could place him or his family in danger.
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"Yes, it's true," concludes the commissioner, "when we are not dealing with an asylum seeker, the news is published, often right away after the arrest, with the initials and age." But each citizen should be equal before all laws and the rule that says someone is innocent until the third degree of judgement should apply. "There isn't an internal directive that says we shouldn't disclose the investigation if the person arrested is an asylum seeker," explains one Turin trade unionist, "but it is strongly suggested so as not to increase tensions and alarm public opinion even more, already exasperated by the disruptions and suspicion of the refugees who have flooded our cities."
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