The cabinet has given the green light to a new bill aimed at tackling illegal immigration by making it easier for foreigners to enter Italy through legal channels. The bill would replace the current Bossi-Fini immigration law, introduced in the country in 2002 under the previous centre-right government, which states that foreigners from outside the European Union must already have a work contract before arriving in the country.

Under the new proposals masterminded by minister for the interior Giuliano Amato and welfare minister Paolo Ferrero, the job contract requirement would be scrapped. Instead, Italians would be able to "sponsor" prospective immigrants, while there would be a fast-track system of entry for highly skilled foreigners such as nurses, technical experts and artists as well as for home helps and cleaners. In addition, nine of the country's 14 migrant holding centres would be shut down. Only immigrants awaiting expulsion would be detained in the remaining centres, and new arrivals would no longer be held while awaiting identification. Ferrero said the proposed law would make legal channels for entering the country more convenient than illegal channels, as is currently the case.

The bill must pass through the chamber of deputies and the senate before it becomes law and is likely to face strong opposition from the centre-right, who say it would result in a massive influx of immigrants into the country.

Recently the minister of the interior Giuliano Amato presented a code of conduct for immigrants in Italy that, while not legally binding, may become a required