Italy paves the way for the regularization of thousands of undocumented migrants

The Italian agricultural sector is an important breeding ground for immigrant labor, often undeclared. Aldo Pavan / Getty Images

Text by: Pauline Gleize Follow

This June 1 is due to begin in Italy a major regularization operation. After fierce discussions, the “Rilancio” decree, issued in mid-May among other things to support the economy in the face of the coronavirus epidemic, includes an article potentially allowing thousands of illegal immigrants to obtain papers, at least temporarily.


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There are several cases, but this article 103 of the Recovery decree should, in fact, mainly benefit immigrants in an irregular situation. Either the employer requests regularization for a worker who arrived before March 8, or a foreigner whose residence permit has expired since October 31, 2019 can do so directly. But you must work or have worked in the agricultural sector or home help.

A restriction that grieves Yvan Sagnet, president of the NoCap association which fights against the exploitation of agricultural workers and participated in working tables as part of preparatory meetings for the development of the national strategy to fight against the corporal , the exploitation of workers in the agricultural sector.

We want ," he says, " an approach based on universal human rights. Give papers not according to the fact that this person serves me, but because it is a right! That said, it's a small step forward.  "

Agriculture and home help

So why these two sectors? With the closure of the borders due to the epidemic, farmers have faced a labor shortage. However, the effectiveness of this regularization measure is discussed. Officially, it is also a question of “  guaranteeing an adequate level of health coverage in a pandemic period  ” and of combating “  illegal employment relationships  ” between employees and employers, even if the subject was in the drawers before the Covid crisis. 19.

Anyway, for Paolo Naticchioni, professor at Roma Tre and economist at the National Institute for Social Protection (INPS), this choice meets essentially political criteria. “  The agricultural sector is a sector that asked for it first. And the minister who was particularly involved is the Minister of Agriculture,  ”he explains. “  It was therefore born from the sector and the minister's sensitivity. This was then extended to the home help sector. But according to studies we have done, this will cause problems. Immigrants will act strategically, they will try to be regularized in these sectors and then possibly change jobs. Perhaps it would have made more sense to expand to other areas.  "

Around 200,000 regularizations planned

About 200,000 illegal immigrants could thus obtain papers, the Interior Ministry estimated very imprecisely. It will depend on several factors.

Will be able to benefit people who arrived in Italy before March 8th or people who have already had a residence permit but which has expired since the end of October 2019. And for Andrea Zini, vice-president of Assindatcolf, the association employers of home care workers, some evidence will be difficult to provide.

They must have fingerprinting or photos, like those taken from illegal immigrants during landings on the coasts, for example. Or else, the extra-community citizen must have made a declaration to the prefecture, but no one does. So there is no proof of the date of their arrival,  ”he said. And to add: "  In general, this is the case for citizens of Eastern countries. The customs which sanction the arrival is often that of Germany or Poland, and not the Italian customs.  "

Convince employers

In addition, certain points would still lack clarity, according to Andrea Zini who estimates that it would be necessary to leave at least until the end of August to deposit the files. This would also leave more time to raise awareness.

“  Not all immigrants know that the government has approved this law. Our NoCap association will do its best to educate as many farmers and as many workers as possible. The hard part will be to find an employer who can regularize because there are fees and taxes to pay.  "

An aspect that does not worry Andrea Zini in the field of homework.

Residence permits issued to immigrants who spontaneously present themselves without a contract will have six months to look for work and hope to obtain a renewal. It is too short in the eyes of Yvan Sagnet. Nevertheless, Paolo Naticchioni believes that this decree could have a more lasting effect. By analyzing the effects of the 2002 and 2012 regularizations, we see that the regularized people have been on the Italian labor market for a long time," explains this INPS economist. It is estimated that five years after regularization, 75% to 80% of them were still listed as working legally. It is a very high proportion. This therefore means that the effect is lasting.  "

In theory, the decree is not dedicated only to undocumented migrants. It must also allow Italians or foreigners who have residence permits but who work under the table to “emerge”. Andrea Zini is skeptical: “  This legislation gives no reason to change anything, if they have decided to work under the table and the families agree. There is no economic advantage for families, such as tax deductions for example, which at least encourages the employer to rectify the situation.  "

Political battle

This regularization is therefore very framed but it has not already been easy to reach this text, the first of its kind since 2012. During the interministerial battle, the Minister of Agriculture, Teresa Bellanova, former union representative, even threatened to resign in order to achieve his ends.

Just a year ago, this article 103 probably could not have seen the light of day. The League, present in the coalition government between June 2018 and September 2019, was "  opposed  " to a massive regularization recalls Paolo Naticchioni. This time, the 5 Star Movement was not initially favorable, "  but a point of convergence was found, probably with political agreements on a wider range  ", assumes Paolo Naticchioni.

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