Italian immigration
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Italian immigration


 Introduction

 Theory

 Italian Migration policy

 Measures for cultural integration

 Civil rights

 Social rights

 Political rights and nationality law

 Quantitative data

 The facts

 Illegal immigration.

 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.

 Qualitative data

 Determinants of Immigration

 Asylum-seekers and refugees

 Case study: Lampedusa

 Conclusion

 Bibliography

 Internet


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 European 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 migration

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 only a few highly skilled and specialised workers leave the country in

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 financed.

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 Albanians in the 90s induced the Government to rethink its

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 organised clandestine flows

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 minorities in Italy,

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.

Civil rights

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.

Social rights

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

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

their size.

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

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