The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing and the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty sent a communication to Italy on a draft law that could lead to the criminalization of individuals living in precarious situations, and undermine the procedural guarantees to protect the occupants of a dwelling from being pushed into homelessness.
Specifically, the draft law foresees:
- The criminalization of the arbitrary occupation of not only property destined to the domicile of others, but simply “property owned by others”;
- The criminalization of persons living in a property “without lawful title”, irrespective of the circumstances;
- A prison term of between 2 and 7 years, with immediate arrest of persons occupying arbitrarily property by the police if the person is caught in flagrante delicto;
- The disconnection of utilities “within 15 days” upon simple complaint from the owner, with only the need for the favorable opinion of the Public Prosecutor’s Office;
- The immediate release of the property which in case of resistance by the occupier, is carried out by force.
The Special Rapporteurs raised concern that the draft law does not distinguish between irregular occupation caused by a state of necessity, resulting from the State’s failure to provide adequate housing, and illegal occupation of property, land and housing by organized criminal groups. As it stands, the law would apply not only to the limited category of occupations of housing where a person is domiciled, but temporarily absent, but also to the situations where abandoned properties are occupied without title. It would include persons staying in rented housing after a rental agreement has ended, persons in situations of homelessness who have no access to adequate housing and are living in abandoned properties, or persons residing in informal encampments and settlements. Moreover, the draft foresees a harsh punishment, which seems to be disproportionate and would in their view be inconsistent with human rights law. In conclusion, they stressed that forcibly evicting persons or households from an arbitrarily occupied dwelling under an accelerated procedure and without providing an appropriate housing alternative, would be in violation of Italy’s international human rights obligations and would push persons living already in precarity into even worse forms of homelessness.