Italian Migration policy
Measures for cultural integration
Political rights and nationality law
A relative latecomer as an immigration country
Large volumes and rapid flows.
High share of illegal immigrants.
The high presence of non-EU foreigners in jail.
Different nationalities, fragmented religions.
Determinants of Immigration
Asylum-seekers and refugees
Case study: Lampedusa
Italy is a country with a long history of emigration and a very short experience of
immigration. Mass emigration started with Italian unification: during the period 1861-
1976 over 26 million people emigrated, half of them towards other Euuropean countries,
the rest towards North and South America. Two fifths of all these emigrations originated
from the regions of the South of Italy.
The reasons were, on the one hand, the slow and difficult development of the
Italian economy and, on the other, the economic expansion which characterised other
countries between the second half of the nineteenth century and World War I. After
World War II, Italians emigrated mostly towards Europe, especially Germany. In the
same years, the development of the industrial North stimulated mass internal miigration
from the South to the North-West.
Emigration declined quickly in the period 1970-1980. In spite of the high
unemployment rate (especially among young people), the higher level of income of
Italian households allowed them to bear the long periods of unemployment of their
members. Now on
search of better job opportunities.
During the same period, Italy changed from being a sender country into a host
country, receiving immigrants largely from developing countries and Eastern Europe.
Italian Migration policy
When immigration started in any sizeable way the Italian institutional infrastructure was
not prepared to cope with it. The legislation was not adequate, the administrative structure
insufficient and the financial support for the necessary activities was not even planned.
The 4 legislation tried to adapt the institutions to the new phenomenon.
The asylum law was revised and extended to all other countries, a visa to enter the
country was requested from countries of potential immigration, and an expulsion policy
was improved and fiinanced.
Now, however, even though Law 59/1990 established a “planned number” of new
entrants each year, the number was not decided upon, and it thus remained at zero, with
immigrants continuing to enter the country illegally, by the “back door”. The existence
of a large shadow economy contributes to attracting immigrants who come solely to earn
money for a short time, and the expectation of a legalisation procedure attracted not only
temporary migrants, but also the ones who wanted to change their country of residence.
The large inflows of
immigration policy and its role in Europe and the Mediterranean with a more restrictive
law (DL489/1995). The initial feeling of a country of emigration is to behave differently
toward immigrants – such as to treat them more favourably than Italian immigrants were
treated in the past – but this sentiment has now been replaced by the feeling that Italy is a
country of immigration, part of a broader area in which there is freedom of movement,
the Schengen area, and the country now has the duty to think more in terms of the
integration of foreigners.
Regularisations are emergency interventions. Since the beginning, the Government
wanted to abandon them as policy instrument. However, it is difficult to succeed in a
country with a large underground economy – about 25 per cent of total activity – and with
long frontiers which are difficult to police to prevent illegal immigration – (similar to the
USA experience)-. The Government under the pressure of illegal immigrants always
implemented the last legalisation for foreign already integrated in the labour market. The
abolition of possible regularisation procedures for the future together with a clearer
definition of the possibilities for legal entry from abroad with a quota system, supported
by more controls at the frontiers and stricter persecution of
are the back bone of the Italian immigration policy.
Furthermore, to discourage illegal entrance in search of job, the sponsor institute has been
introduced, namely as in Australia a native, a legal foreigner, or an organization can
sponsor the entrance of a foreigners in search of job for a limited amount of months.
The Italian migration regulation is not only focused on the entrance of the foreigners.
Since the mid 1990s the Government provides also support for foreign integration. A
number of intervention have been implemented in the field of education (training and
language courses) as well as in the field of social services (mainly housing subsidies and
Legalizations by countries of origins (millions)
Measures for cultural integration
The 2002 Bossi-Fini law did not change the 1998 Turco-Napolitano law as far as the
treatment of cultural diversity is concerned. The use of cultural mediators is foreseen,
multicultural educational programmes are funded with public money and these include the
teaching of the language of the country of origin. Integration is also supported by providing
special support for learning the vehicular language, i.e. Italian, in schools and in special
classes for adult migrants. The goal of pluralism would be better achieved by passing the bill
on religious freedom, which gives more freedom and benefits to religious mi
thus enabling the Government to overcome the difficulty of signing conventions with Islamic
associations, often rife with division and under excessive control of foreign governments. The
signing of agreements would however represent a strong act of public recognition of the
Islamic minorities, because this road has already been followed for other minorities. The
approval of the bill would in any case be an important step forward because many measures in
it correspond to needs expressed by the Islamic communities concerning the respect of
religious edicts on food, holidays, prayer and burial of the dead. First presented by a Christian
Democrat leader (Ciriaco De Mita), then by former Prime Minister Romano Prodi, it has been
proposed again within Berlusconi’s Government. However, it is strongly opposed by the
Northern League, although it is supported by the Home Secretary Giuseppe Pisanu.
Documented immigrants are treated like Italian citizens as far as civil rights are concerned.
Civil action against direct or even indirect discrimination (for reasons of race, colour, origin,
and religious belief) is allowed. Italian legislation still does not comply, however, with the
E.U. directive concerning anti-discrimination in two points. The 1998 law prohibited various
forms of discrimination against citizens or immigrant workers, but did not provide for a
reversal of the burden of proof in cases involving discrimination against workers by
employers. The Bossi-Fini law has not touched upon this issue, but the European directive on
the question was ratified by Legislative Decree 215 of 9 July 2003, which does not however
contain explicit provisions on the burden of proof. To protect victims of enforced prostitution
and “new slavery” the 1998 law already envisaged a visa for reasons of “social protection”;
the victims are offered special recovery and rehabilitation programmes. In no case can women
be expelled during pregnancy or in the six months after giving birth.
Minors can be expelled only if they accompany their expelled parents or, when alone, if it is
possible to trace their parents in the country of origin, or some institution that can take care of
them properly. A special Committee for foreign minors is in charge of taking care of the
return of non-accompanied minors to their country of origin. Foreign minors who cannot be
expelled are granted a special residence permit. The Centre-Right government’s reform gives
a work permit to those minors who come of age and have been included in integration
programmes run by local authorities, voluntary associations and NGOs, that must certify that
the minors attend the programmes.
In 2006, the law no. 7/2006 was approved, punishing the practice of infibulations with
sentences from 4 to 12 years, to be increased of one third if the practice concerns minors.
When the surgery is performed by a health worker, this latter risks disqualification from
profession from 3 to 10 years. The guilty will be punished also if infibulations is performed
abroad. Furthermore, the state is committed in starting information campaigns both in Italy
and in the countries of origin. Instead, the proposal of the centre-left opposition of granting
the right to asylum status to women who flee their countries because they refuse infibulations
has not been accepted.
Documented immigrants enjoy the same social rights as Italian citizens, with only minor
exceptions, slightly increased by the Centre-Right reform (for example, access to public
housing is now tied to a two-year residence permit). Restrictions to social rights, however,
had already been implemented by the last Centre-Left governments. After the 1998 Single Act
a circular from the social security body INPS, which had specified that access to social aid
was available to immigrants, was cancelled; the Maternity Law of March 8, 2000 limited the
special maternity allowances for single mothers and for mothers of a third child (or more) to
holders of a permanent residence card.
One of the problems most affecting foreigners is the risk that the social and pension
contributions they pay for may bring them no return in benefits. Under the Bossi-Fini law,
foreigners who return to their own country without having reached the minimum necessary to
receive benefits (20 years of contributions, and a minimum age of 65), lose all their
contributions if they have been a member of the retributive or mixed system. Only if they are
members of the contributive system can they get back what they have paid in. Under the
system which existed previously, in contrast, there was a special fund at INPS (the Italian
national social and pension fund) for the return of these contributions (plus 5%).
The Turco-Napolitano law had already abolished the “repatriation fund”, which gave
foreigners money to return home (this fund was partially financed by a contribution of 0.5%
taken out of foreign workers’ wages).
Undocumented immigrants are given basic rights – essential public healthcare and state
education. The 2002 Centre-Right reform changed undocumented immigrants’ rights very
marginally. Undocumented immigrants are still entitled to all “essential services and
treatment even if long-term”, not just to treatment in the event of emergency, pregnancy and
for children, as is the rule in other countries. Undocumented immigrants are given a special
anonymous public health card; they are asked to pay the normal contribution or to declare
they are unable to pay it. For undocumented minors, public education is not only free, but also
compulsory. Undocumented immigrants also have the right to legal aid.
The 1998 law limited temporary accommodation to legal immigrants only, but the Bossi-Fini
law specifies that all “social integration measures” are limited to legal immigrants and
therefore denies private bodies (for example, Catholic associations such as Caritas) the
possibility of assisting and giving shelter to undocumented immigrants. Not all organisations
have actually observed this regulation however. The possibility for the mayor to allow
undocumented immigrants access to accommodation in the event of an emergency, envisaged
by article 40 of the Turco-Napolitano law has not been abolished by the Bossi-Fini law, but
transformed into a transitory measure (article 34) while completing the network of temporary
accommodation and assistance centres.
The national fund for migration policies, set up by the Turco-Napolitano law, was
incorporated by the Centre-Right government in 2001 in the national fund for social policies,
which maintains, however, a division in budget constraints. The 2003 finance law (law 289 of
27 December 2002) eliminated the specific destination of funds and considerably reduced
During 2005, the National Fund for Social Policies has been halved with the consequence of
serious damage for the activities in the field of migration promoted by local authorities.
Political rights and nationality law
The proposal to extend the vote at local elections to permanent cardholders, originally
contained in the 1998 draft law, was later removed, as the legal office of the Chamber of
Deputies decided that it was unconstitutional. A proposal to revise the Constitution (Chamber
of Deputies bill 4167) was put forward, and then set aside by Centre-Left governments.
Various bills to grant the right to vote in local elections have been presented by members of
the left and centre-left during the second Berlusconi government. More surprise was aroused
when the leader of Alleanza Nazionale Gianfranco Fini proposed the Constitution should be
revised in order to make it possible to grant the vote in local elections to immigrants (Bill no.
4397 Chamber of Deputies). However for the time being no reform has been passed.
The same thing happened regarding proposals to reform law no. 91 of 1992 on citizenship, a
law which had strengthened the principle of jus sanguinis. The previous 1912 Law did not
make any distinction and set five years residence for all foreigners before being able to apply
for nationality. The Law of 1992 demands instead three years of residence for aliens of Italian
origin, four for aliens of E.U. countries, five for refugees, and ten years for aliens from non-
EU countries. The jus soli criterion, i.e. non-discretionary access to citizenship for foreigners
born in Italy when they turn 18, is thus modified: they must be legal residents since birth, and
must prove their continuous presence in the country. These two requirements were not part of
the 1912 law.
Under the 1992 law, 164,000 aliens of Italian origin (one Italian grand parent was sufficient),
who had lost their Italian nationality by adopting a foreign one, could reacquire their former
nationality (and keep their other nationality). The constitutional reform law no. 1 of 17
January 2000 and law no. 459 of 27 December 2001 gave these and other Italian citizens
resident abroad the right to vote in general elections. These citizens who vote for the macro- constituencies in which they live (Europe, including the Asian territories of the Russian
Federation and Turkey; South America; North and Central America; Africa, Asia, Oceania
and the Antarctic) are assigned 6 senators and 12 deputies; these parliamentarians will
increase the current composition of the Senate (315 seats) and the Chamber of Deputies (630
seats). The 2002 Financial Act extended the “social increase” of minimum pensions to all
Italians living abroad, making this up to 516,46 Euros a month for 13 annual payments, or the
equivalent in local currency reflecting the cost of living in the country of residence.
At the beginning of 2004, 13,420 people obtained Italian citizenship while residing in Italy
(Caritas – Ministry of the Interior), 84.2% of whom through marriage.
Acquisition of Italian citizenship
Italy became a country of immigration during the 70s. The number of foreign residents
increased from 143,838 in 1970 to about 300,000 in 1980 and, by the mid 80s it had
reached half a million (1985).
In the 90s, the foreign population increased further and from 781,000 in 1990 rose to one million 1995.
Even if the stock of foreign in absolute value with a residency permit increased
substantially, it still represents a small percentage of the population, just a little above
2%, and also the percentage of foreigners employed in the total labour force is still low
on average, and it never reaches a value above 5% even in the sectors where foreign
workers are concentrated most.
Stock of foreign resident population in absolute value, as share of domestic population and by area of origin and most important nationality of origin. By Area of Origin By main nationality of origin
The composition of the immigrants change remarkably in the 1980s and 1990s. The
incidence of immigrants who came from the European Union declined, while the
proportion of immigrants from outside the European Union increased, and in the late
1990s accounted for 86 per cent of the total . Among the non-Europeans, in spite of the
increase in Afro and Asian immigrants, their relative incidence declined in relation to
Eastern European immigrants from Yugoslavia, Albania and Rumania, who became the
fastest growing group.
The growth of the African and Asian communities is clearly seen from the data emerging
from the legalisation procedure. Where the African and Filipinos nationals accounted for
the most important groups in the first and second legalisation procedures, the
Yugoslavian, Albanian and Rumanian were more important in the third and last.
The new immigrants tend to locate where demand for work is higher and more
facilities make immigrants’ integration possibilities easier and faster. According to the
territorial distribution of residence permits, in 1998, 30.4 per cent of the legal foreigners
are in the North-West, 29.4per cent in the Centre and 22.3per cent in the North-East.
During the 90s, the North-East area is the one, which has most increased, its inflows,
especially for Eastern European immigrants, but also for Africans. The South, with 11.2
per cent and the Islands with 5.5 per cent are much less important. Among the urban
areas, Milan and Rome have respectively 13per cent and 17per cent of total resident
permits, but the fastest growing provinces – Brescia, Vicenza and Verona- are in the
North-East. The North-East is more appealing on many dimensions. First there is an
excess demand of labour. The industrial and service structure is dominated by small firms
in which labour legislation is less strict, and it allows an employment relationship more
flexible and more favourable to the immigrants who care less for employment stability
and higher wages. The gender composition indicates a small imbalance in favour of male
immigration; in fact, 54.7 per cent (2000) of the total number of foreign residents are
male. Data show a prevalence of female immigrants among some Asian groups – i.e.
Filipinos-, where only 33.8per cent are male, Latin American groups (Brazilian 27.8 per
cent, Peru 28.3per cent), while male immigrants prevail among the African groups
(72.3per cent among Moroccans, 78per cent among Tunisians, 92.9per cent among
Senegalese) and East Europeans, namely ex-Yugoslavia (65per cent) and, Albania (70per
cent). Among these two groups where the male component prevails, there are exceptions,
such as Rumanians and Poles, where female immigrants are prevalent and, among
Africans, Somalis and Ethiopians.
In terms of age and household composition, young adults (18-39) constitute by
far the most important share with 65.2per cent of total presence. Most of them, whether
married (48.6per cent) or not (46.4per cent), do not have children 75per cent. This shows
that Italian immigration is still in an initial phase of migration in which one family
member alone usually immigrates. However, according to Caritas report data, the number
of family re-conjunctions are increasing at a fast rate. On the total new inflows in 1999 40
per cent were family reunion permits while this type of permit represents only 21per cent
of total stock of permits.
Among the immigrants from outside the European Union, 61.8per cent hold a residence
permit for work reasons, of whom 93.1per cent are regular employees and, 6.9 self-employed,
while 13per cent hold a permit to look for job.
The Census data from 1991 show distribution by sectors: about 36per cent in the
Industrial sector, of which 18per cent in the construction industry, 17.6per cent in the
agricultural sector, 30per cent in trade and service and 16per cent self employed. A
degree of ethnic specialisation exists: in fact, Africans are concentrated in agricultural,
construction and self-employed activities, while Asians work mostly in services and
agriculture and Eastern Europeans in construction.
Since then, Social Security data (covering only employees) has shown an increase in total
foreign employment which reached 563,000 in 1998, 17per cent of whom as family
workers, 9per cent as agricultural workers and the remainder (74per cent) in the private
industrial (roughly 42per cent) and service sectors (32per cent).
In terms of occupational characteristics, 73per cent are registered as manual workers.
This is due to a combination of two causes: their relatively low education level and the
difficulty of finding a job on a par with their education and training.
The information available regarding the education of foreigners serves little, given the
educational differences which exist between schooling systems. When it is based on their
declarations, there is an overvaluation of their education, when it is based upon
recognition of their degrees – the difficulties in comparing different schooling systems
may induce an under-evaluation of their education. Thus, given this provision, the
educational level among those registered at employment offices, based on degree
recognition – has fallen in the course of the 90s. The proportion of immigrants with no
education was 75% in 1995 and increased to 85 per cent in 2000.
The spontaneous flow of immigrants and the initial difficulty of controlling the
phenomenon create the impression of a largely illegal phenomenon. On account of the
work they do as street vendors, windshield cleaners and prostitutes, a small number of
foreigners is highly visible and contributes to the impression that illegal immigration is
growing at a rapid rate.
The results of the legalisation procedures, however, seem to have brought some realism
to the size of the illegal phenomenon. The foreigners who were regularised were limited
in number and much fewer than expected; 118,000 with the first measure (1987), 234,841
with the second (1991) and 247,50014 with the third (1996) and 219,000 with the last
(1998). The illegality rate – namely, the number of immigrants regularised over the
number of residence permits – was 30per cent with the first procedure, 45per cent with
the second and 27per cent with the third and 18per cent with the last one, and it is quite
constant over-time, and the very limited decline suggests that only a small percentage of
the total number of illegal immigrants can take advantage of the legalisation procedure,
that its frequency may determine repeated legalisation by the same foreigners, and may
attract additional flows of illegal immigrants.
Estimates of the number of illegal presents have been made on many occasions
using different sources .The most recent survey of the estimates stresses the use of
information drawn from the legalisation procedures in the calculation of the share of illegal immigrants. In 1994, the lowest estimate was 465,000 while the highest was 564,000 while
in 1998 it ranged between 176 or 295.000.
The changes in the immigration flows that resulted in illegal Polish immigrants being
replaced by illegal Moroccans and Filipinos, then illegal Albanians, and than illegal
Curds and illegal Rumanians, increase the difficulties in monitoring the phenomenon, and
make it more difficult to produce reliable estimates of the number of illegal immigrants
The national statistics office (ISTAT) provides a time series data (estimates) concerning
the work done by illegal or legal foreigners in the underground economy . The total
work measured in standard unit of labour amount to about 700.000 units, which
represents 3per cent of the total units of work and 7.6per cent of total non-regular units of
labour and 25per cent of total non-regular units of labour among employees. The sectors
where they work are the same as where they work in regular employment but with a
different intensity, mainly services (70per cent), agriculture and construction.
A relative latecomer as an immigration country
In Italy, immigration flows started after the 1973-1974 oil shock, when Britain, Germany, and
especially neighbouring France closed their borders. Flows were therefore partially diverted
towards Southern Europe. Italy appeared to be a transit country for a certain period of time.
The 1981 census revealed an unexpectedly ‘high’ number of foreign residents (210,937) and
presence of foreigners (109,841), mainly of Italian origin. The first big influx, however, dates
from later, between 1984 and 1989, when approximately 700-800,000 people entered the
country. Of these, it is estimated that 300-350,000 entered or remained in Italy without a valid
residence permit. We thus begin to take two significant features of migration in Italy: rapid flows with substantial volumes; high proportion of undocumented immigrants.
Large volumes and rapid flows.
During the 1980s, it was Italy and Germany who received the largest influxes of immigrants
in Europe. And again between 1996 and 2004, the increase in the foreign population in Italy
came to 300% (Table 1). Naturally, the sharp jumps in the inward flows are only apparent: there are peaks immediately after regularisation processes. At the beginning of 2002 the foreigners present in Italy were estimated to be about 1,362,630.
Following the influxes and the applications presented under the provisions of the recent amnesty
(L. 189/2002), at the beginning of 2004 a total of 2,193,999 foreigners were
present. The increase in the number of documented immigrants between 2002 and
2004 is therefore 60%. After regularisation, immigrant stock started to increase less
consistently than before, and at the beginning of 2005 documented foreigners (minors
included) reached the amount of 2.786.340 according to Caritas and 2.320.000 according to
Table 1- Residence permits, 1995-2003
High share of illegal immigrants.
There are strong migratory flows everywhere, just as there are illegal entries and
undocumented presences, but the phenomenon is particularly acute in Italy. It is estimated
that 80% of work contracts has been assigned through measures of regularisation which have
occurred over the last 20 years. Italy attracts illegal immigration more than other countries
due to the difficulty of controlling such extensive borders and above all because of the size of
its informal economy. This is due to the expansion of private care and domestic services as
well as the proliferation of small enterprises where unregistered labour can be hidden more
easily. Public action has also had an impact on this dynamic. Immigration laws have been
mainly aimed at regularising the status of those already residing in Italy illegally, rather than
at regulating new legal entries. This has meant that the ‘back door’ of illegal entry has been
the only viable one. Between 1986 and 1998 Italian Governments introduced four amnesties
covering a total of almost 790,000 people.
The various amnesties did not solve the problem. They appear, in fact, to have attracted new
illegal migration more than to have drained the pool of illegal migrants. The gap between the
planned legal quotas, on the one hand, and the demand for immigrant labour, on the other,
continuously reproduces large numbers of illegal immigrants. This is why even the present
Centre-Right government, which claims it fights illegal migration more firmly, accepted the
inclusion in its new reform (no.189 – July 30, 2002) of the possibility to legalise one
housekeeper per family and an unlimited number of care workers for non self-sufficient
people, as long as they were hired before June 10, 2002 – a requirement that is difficult to
deny. Another decree (no.195 – September 9, 2002) extended the amnesty to other employees
hired before June 10, 2002. These measures were adopted under the pressure both of an
advocacy coalition (made up mainly of Catholic religious associations, democratic lawyers’
associations, part of the trade unions, academics) and business organisations. A Circular from
the Ministry allows those employees whose employer is not willing to regularise them, and
those employees who have been dismissed because their employer refused to regularise them,
to request an amnesty. 705,404 regularisation applications have been made, 634,728 of which
The high presence of non-EU foreigners in jail.
In Italy in 2002 foreigners made up 30.1% of the total prison population – a percentage which
was lower only than that of Austria (33%), Belgium (40,9%), Greece (45,9%) and
Luxembourg (63,9%) and Switzerland (70,8%)4. This imbalance has been explained in many
ways. Foreigners find it more difficult to obtain house arrest and probation; they are more
easily identified due to distinctive physiological traits. The problem is minimised by the fact
that aliens are usually convicted of crimes related to drug dealing and murders against the
estate. The data is difficult to interpret but certainly cause for worry (Table 2).
Table 2-Foreigners as percentage of all detainees
Different nationalities, fragmented religions.
There are no overwhelmingly predominant nationalities: referring to residence permits, at the
beginning of 2004, the largest national group was that of Romanians, who, however, made up
only 10.9% of the total foreign population in Italy. The next most numerous nationalities were
Albanians (10.6%), Moroccans (10.4%), Ukrainians (5.1%), Chinese (4.6%), Filipinos
(3.4%), Poles (3.0%), Tunisians (2.8%), Americans (2.2%), and Senegalese (2.2%) (Caritas)
Table 3– Foreign residents by main nationalities.
Data on foreign residents are rather different: at the beginning of 2005, at fist place there are Albanians (13,2%), followed by Moroccans (12,3%), Rumanians (10,4%), Chinese (4,6%), Ukrainian (3,9%), Filipinos (3,4%), and Tunisians (3,3%) (Istat)
Table 4 – Foreign residents by main nationalities.
Neither can we talk of a predominant religion: at the beginning of 2005 – figures from Caritas
and the Ministry of the Interior – 22.6% of foreigners are Catholic, 20,3% of them are
Orthodox (the total number of Christian foreigners is 49,5%), and 33% are Muslims
Table 5-Foreign residents by main religions.
Before 11 September 2001, Italians’ attitudes towards Islam were relatively tolerant. According to a comparative survey conducted by the European Union in 2000, only 10% of Italians were against the entry of workers from Islamic countries (against a European average of 18%), 30% declared themselves ready to welcome them without restrictions (European average 17%). The attitude towards foreigners from Eastern Europe (mainly Christians) differed little: 9% did not want them, 31% were ready to welcome them.
The attitude of suspicion towards Islamic foreigners – Moroccans, Albanians, Tunisians
– seemed determined more by their high crime rates than their religion. If we read the list, the
gypsies are at the bottom, while the Senegalese encounter a certain popularity (Table 6). Since September 11, hostility has increased: a third of Italians has declared feeling more wary of people of Arab origin after the terrorist attacks on Twins Towers.
Table 6–Degree of liking/dislike of different nationalities by Italians
Determinants of Immigration
The immigration phenomenon and its timing is partly explained by the closure of
several Northern European labour markets at the beginning of the economic recession in
1974 which pushed foreign immigrants to search for new countries of destination.
During that period, the conditions for Italy to become an immigration country were
already set. Wages for manual workers were higher in Italy than in France, and income
per capita had increased too to reduce the gap from Northern European countries.
Contrary to the 60s experience, where migration was pulled by the demand in the
countries of destination, in the 80s immigration was initially pushed by supply factors,
high fertility rates, lack of jobs in the country of origin, low wages and poor working
conditions and, given the proximity, relatively low transportation costs (Table 6).
Some available job openings were found in sectors such as family services, in the
agricultural, in construction and in many small industries, as well as in the informal
economy. Then, a chain mechanism was trigged and additional flows joined the stock of
immigrants (the flow stock ratio is on average 12per cent, with higher value in the more
Table 6 Determinants of Immigration
The lack of an appropriate (restrictive) immigration law and the long and pouring
frontiers caused the flow to start and the chain effect brought in additional immigrants,
even though the law became more restrictive and economic opportunities diminished.
During the 90s, the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and Albania put Italy even more
under the pressure of illegal flows. “Boat people” came in from Albania and other nearby
Mediterranean countries, but also from as far away as Kurdistan. All these people initially
entered as asylum seekers, and only after bilateral agreements were some nationalities,
Albanians first and foremost, repatriated without accepting their application for demand
asylum. Only 25per cent of application have been accepted. The fact that individuals know they fail to possess the appropriate prerequisites and prefer to enter anyhow, even at the risk of being and remaining irregular may be one of the causes of the decline in total number of applications. Even if East European immigration does not have the traditional characteristics of labour immigration (in the Yugoslav and Albanian cases, for instance, radical political changes took place), the push factors are still economic, with immigrants looking for better labour opportunities and higher income prospects. The country tried to regulate the flows, but the political disruption of
neighbour areas increased the pressure.
Asylum-seekers and refugees
Italy does not have a law concerning asylum and refugee protection.
Requests for asylum is still mainly regulated by art. 1 of Law no.39/1990 and by the few
articles included in the Bossi-Fini 2002 reform. The 1990 law repealed the Italian clause of
ratification of the Geneva Convention which had previously limited the status of refugee in
Italy to people from authoritarian European countries. The Dublin Convention of 1990
(ratified by Italy in 1992 but in force only since 1997) introduced the principle of refusing
applications from people who have already been granted refugee status by other states
considered to be “safe countries”, in terms of civil and political rights. As far as asylum is
concerned, a more liberal bill to recognise the status of refugee is now being examined by
Parliament. The new law of 2002 introduces a simplified procedure. A territorial commission is supposed to examine the application within 15 days of its receipt by the police, and then make a
decision within 3 days. If the request is rejected, the asylum seeker can demand a re-examination
of the request. During the examination, asylum seekers can be kept in “identification centres”. For the re-examination procedure, one member of the national commission joins the territorial commission and the decision should be taken within 10 days.
In the event of a negative response by the re-examination commission, it is possible to appeal
to a magistrate, but the appeal does not have the effect of suspending expulsion from the
national territory. The applicant, however, can be allowed by the Prefetto to stay until the
final decision is taken. The Bossi-Fini law gives institutional recognition and funds to the PNA (Piano nazionale asilo or National refugee plan) set up in 2000 by the Ministry of the Interior, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and the National Association of Italian
Municipalities. This programme includes measures for temporary accommodation, assisted
repatriation, protection and integration, including courses of vocational training for those
claiming asylum – even though they are forbidden to work. In 2004, 9.722 asylum applications were presented, 8.701 of which were examined and 780 accepted (Table 7). In recent years, Italy has granted temporary residence permits for humanitarian reasons to people from Somalia, ex-Yugoslavia and Albania.
Table7– Asylum applications and outcomes
Case study: Lampedusa
Background information from Amnesty International
Amnesty International has long-standing concerns about the lack of adequate and
comprehensive asylum legislation in Italy. Over the last year the organization
has also expressed fears that the Italian government’s attempts to deal with
arrivals by sea are seriously compromising the fundamental right to seek asylum
and the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits the forcible return of
anyone to a territory where they would be at risk of serious human rights
In October 2004 the UNHCR requested access to the Lampedusa centre, but was not
allowed in until five days later. By this time over 1,000 recently arrived
people had been flown back to Libya, where the UNHCR was again denied access to
them. The UNHCR has stated that “the rushed methods used to sort out people by
nationality” meant that individuals who might have had a valid asylum claim did
not receive a proper assessment. Amnesty International was also deeply troubled
by the speed with which hundreds of recently arrived foreign nationals were
deported from Crotone to Libya in December 2004, apparently without any
opportunity to seek asylum.
Libya is a state party to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention
Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, and is therefore
bound not to return anyone to a country where they would be at risk of serious
human rights violations. Libya violated this obligation on several occasions in
2004. Hundreds of Eritreans were forcibly returned in July and August 2004;
many of those returned to Eritrea are believed to be detained incommunicado in
a secret prison where conditions are harsh.
The case: five hundred illegal immigrants have arrived on Lampedusa in 16 May 2006, under the eyes of Italians taking an early summer break on the island’s sandy beaches.
Like tens of thousands before them, they made their European landfall here after long journeys through Africa: sneaking across closely guarded borders, hiding in dunes in the Sahara, passed from one gang of people-traffickers to another like merchandise, robbed of what little they had at the start of the journey. Most have spent all the money they had on the trip, and often their families’ savings too. If they have made it this far they are lucky: more than 2,000 have died trying to get into Europe this way in the past 15 years.
Lampedusa is the southernmost point of Italy, halfway between Malta and Tunisia.
Hundreds of Italians, Milanese especially, pile off flights from the mainland every summer weekend.
Every summer, the island experiences this dual invasion: thousands of sun-seekers, and thousands of migrants trying to get away from countries where their lives are at risk, or to start a new life where there is hope for a decent future. The tourists disembark from their planes in view of the migrants’ reception centre. One of the popular beaches is in full view of the dock where the immigrant boats are towed in. There is no contact.
If you leave the coast of Libya and sail north, Lampedusa is the first place you make landfall. Today, as many times every year, the reception centre next to the airport is full to bursting. It is equipped to accommodate only 190 people. There are only eight toilets, and they don’t work well. There is nowhere for fresh arrivals to sleep. A state of emergency has been declared.
The latest arrivals have been fortunate: the weather has been fine and the sea flat. But in the recent past, coast guards have described ghastly scenes. In October 2003 they boarded a dilapidated wooden fishing boat in mid-ocean where the dead and the still-just-alive were all mixed up together, the survivors wailing for help. When the corpses had been removed, one young woman, unconscious and barely breathing but still alive, was found trapped underneath them.
Fifteen survived and 13 died, but survivors said about another 70 had already been tossed overboard. Earlier that year, in June 2003, more than 200 died when their grossly overloaded vessel sank.
Coastguards wearing rubber gloves and surgical masks march them up the gangplank and give them a bottle of water and sit them in tight formation on the dock where a doctor gives them a look-over. Thirsty and suffering from exposure their faces are grey; lips tremble uncontrollably.
Some consideration on the emigration process could be that international emigration no longer seems to be an option for young Southern European workers.
Income differentials among European countries has shrunk through time and in
some cases it has reversed its sign . In addition unemployment is a very widespread
phenomena, thus there is a shortage of work opportunities everywhere. International
emigration is no longer a rewarding investment for Italian workers.
A possible stream of emigration could involve skilled workers who represent an
increasingly important source of labour demand in many advanced countries. However in
Italy the proportion of higher education workers is among the lowest in Europe.
The limited increase in the level of education and wealth in the South has not increased
the international and internal mobility of workers but contributed to some extent to its
immobility: increasing job expectations of young people and the length of search
(financed mainly by the family and frequently by occasional work in the black economy).
While in the North of Italy (especially in the East) labour demand for all skill levels is
growing, a low cross regions mobility is observed.
In this mismatch between supply and demand, immigrants from abroad fill the gaps left
by the domestic labour force. If migrants are not directly competitive with native
workers, they could however have an indirect competitive effect by increasing production
in the labour intensive and traditional sectors. Such a process would slow down the
modernization which would create more jobs for qualified natives. At the moment none
of these effects is apparent, (that is there is no evidence of direct or indirect competition),
but in the future the scenario could change.
In the future, however, the age of the labour force will create a generational demand for
additional young workers. Already in the next 10 years young male workers will find one
and half jobs available in the Centre and North of Italy because of generational factors.
In South of Italy fertility is higher and the demographic demand for immigrants is simply
postponed. Thus, if internal mobility does not increase, in the first five years of the next
century in Northern Italy the explicit demand for foreign workers will amount to 30% of
The immigration policy should comply with the short and long term evolution of
Southern European labour markets. This objective can be achieved if the immigration
policy is selective and flexible so that it can on one hand discourage clandestine flows
and on the other hand cope with the many changes in the labour market that take places.
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Roberto Santaniello “Storia dell’integrazione europea : dalla guerra fredda alla Costituzione dell’Unione”, Bino Olivi, 2003.