Monday, June 7, 2010

Ostrava, Czech Republic : Impact of migration [Part 3] - Contribution of the Italian Team



Italy is a country of immigration as well as emigration.
Italy has seen an important immigration flow during the past 20 years. Given its position in the centre of the Mediterranean, with over 8,000 kilometers of coastline, Italy is considered the most accessible entrance to Europe by many migrants.

Immigration law
New legislation to regulate immigration into Italy came into force in August 2002, and a decree on procedures for regularising the situation of illegal immigrants already in the country was adopted in September by the centre-right government.
Law No. 189 of 30 July 2002, known as the 'Bossi-Fini law' after the names of the politicians who proposed it, introduces new clauses. The most significant aspects of the law are as follows:
  • each year, before 30 November, the Prime Minister will lay down the number of non-EU workers who can be admitted into Italy in the following year;
  • there are no limitations to entry into Italy for highly-skilled workers (university lecturers and professors, professional nurses etc);
  • other non-EU immigrants will be allowed entry into Italy only if they have a 'residence contract' (contratto di soggiorno) - ie a contract of dependent employment signed by an employer (a firm or a family) and the immigrant worker.
  • a specific immigration office will be set up in each province of Italy to oversee the entire recruitment procedure for immigrant workers and non-EU citizens who enter Italy for purpose of family reunification.
  • irregular immigrants will be deported and accompanied to Italy‟s borders+ Eeportation will be immediate and will not be suspended even if the immigrant appeals to the courts;
  • suspected illegal immigrants stopped by the police will be taken to specific centres controlled by the police. The authorities will try to discover their identity during the following 60 days. If they are found to be illegal immigrants, they will be ordered to leave the country within five days (a period they must spend in the centre). If they fail to do so, the illegal immigrants will be held in arrest for between six months and a year or deported and accompanied to the border. If illegal immigrants return to Italy, they will be arrested and tried by the courts.
A very harsh debate accompanied the adoption of the Bossi-Fini law and the decree, with criticisms voiced both by trade unions and employers' associations: many said the law was in response to the intolerance expressed by some Italians against immigrants (ex. Lega Nord); the policies carried out by the government do not tackle the problem and will result in an abnormal increase in irregular and illegal immigrants; it contributes a great deal to creating 'a climate which denies foreign women and men their rights and which considers foreign workers just as a workforce to be exploited'.

Meeting at school – 12 February 2010

On 12 February our school held a meeting with experts on migration coming from the local government, and with people who have experienced migration . The experts talked about old and recent immigration laws, while immigrants spoke about their personal experiences.

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Mr Simonetti, President of an Association of Lucani Abroad, explained immigration laws and migration policy in our region.
Mr. Blumetti, 60 years old, moved in the '50s from a little village in Basilicata to the north of Italy and experienced the prejudice of the people there; in fact his family had difficulty in finding a house to rent
Mrs Aga Piotowska, from Poland, works for a local association “Città dei Colori” that deals with the problems of immigrants and refugees. She told us about the relationship between migration and crime.
As a result of that conference, we realized that there are many problems that immigrants and local people have to face in order to favour integration: regular and irregular migration, jobs, cultural integration, schooling, refugees, crime, etc..

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Regular immigrants

Residence permit

If you are a non-EU national and plan to come to Italy for a period exceeding three months, you must apply for a residence permit.
If it is your first time in Italy, you have 8 days to apply for a residence permit.
The validity of your residence permit is the same as indicated on your visa, i.e:
 Up to 6 months for seasonal work or up to 9 months for seasonal work in the specific sectors requiring this extension;
 Up to 1 year if you are attending a duly documented course of study or a vocational training course;
 Up to 2 years for self-employment, open-ended employement and family reunification.
If you are planning to come to Italy for short visits, business, tourism or study for a period not exceeding 3 months you are not required to apply for a residence permit.

Immigrants : jobs and education

According to a statistic study carried out by URISCO, a national statistic association,
Immigrants come from:
  • 43% come from Centre-Eastern Europe
  • 30% come from Africa.
  • 17% come from Asia.
  • 10% come from South America.
They live :
  • 62% in the North of Italy (Blue).
  • 24% in the Centre of Italy (Red).
  • 14% in the Isles (White).
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Most regular immigrants work:
  • 80% have a job or a commercial activity,
  • 60% come to Italy for family re-union. Most intend to live here forever,
  • 80% have an earned-income of € 846 per month+
The instruction levels of immigrants are:
  • 38% are graduated.
  • 75% know a foreign language such as English (36%) or French (24%).
  • 47% know the Italian language well.
Seasonal work

Every year thousands of seasonal immigrant workers seek jobs over the autumn and winter picking citrus fruits in Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, Sicily , regions in the south of Italy.
In 2005, more than 2.5 million farm businesses existed in Italy, employing 1.3 million full-time workers, only 15% of whom were dependent employees. In 2008, in order to meet labour demand in the agricultural sector, employers requested permission to employ 40,000 workers from non-EU countries for the harvesting of agricultural produce – out of the 80,000 migrant workers envisaged by the 2007 „Flussi‟ Eecree on immigration flows+ The harvesting period in question was to last between 20 days and nine months.

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The Italian government launched an initiative in 2008 to combat undeclared work by establishing a voucher scheme in the agricultural sector. As an experimental measure, employers could apply for vouchers which could then be used as payment to workers undertaking supplementary work in the sector during the grape harvest. The vouchers include social security and insurance contributions.
However, despite the normative instruments in force, the Italian agricultural sector is susceptible to widespread exploitation and illegality. In 2005, the proportion of irregular workers had increased to 22.2%, up from 20.9% in 2001. Often, given the absence of an employment contract regulating the duration of the working day and the wage, the remuneration of agricultural workers is tantamount to piece work, being paid according to the quantity of boxes of fruit or vegetables picked. Seasonal work in agriculture is an occupational category that is formally covered by an employment contract but in practice is often subject to forms of irregularity or the total evasion of social security contributions and insurance payments.

Cultural integration

Education and cultural integration is an essential aspect of effective migration management. It addresses the challenges of how migrants settle into their new communities, how they are received and how they are able to maintain links to their home culture, both for first generation migrants and in turn, their children. In this sense integration is a two way process, its success depending on the willingness and commitment of migrants to adapt to the receiving country, but also on the preparedness of host communities to accept them.
Migrants are often discriminated against in host communities and are over represented in the more socially deprived sectors of the population. Feeling that their own culture is being denigrated, rather than integrated, can lead to frustration, anxiety, and feelings a of inferiority and aggressive impulses.

The “second generation”
Today there is also the problem of the “second generation”: children born and brought up in the receiving society, teen-agers reunified with their families after having completed their socialization process in their country of origin, children of mixed couples, etc. no simple definition can include them all. For this reason, Italian scholars are very skeptical about the notion of “second generation”+ A minor born in Italy from two foreign citizens is not granted Italian citizenship,because the idea of “jus sanguinis”prevails; while a child born from a mixed couple is granted the Italian citizenship if one of the two parents hold the Italian nationality.
A peculiar characteristic of the Italian reality is the very differentiated composition of the foreign students, who belong to more than 170 different nationalities and who have approximately 80 origin languages (E.M., 2001). The students come mostly from Albania (17%), from Morocco (15,6%), from Ex-Yugoslavia (1%), but a relevant number arrives from different Asian countries (1/6 of the total foreign students), the main ones are China, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The integration policy of immigrants is recent in Italy and extremely differentiated according to the local realities and the immigrant groups. The arrival of substantial important flows of immigrants from Eastern Europe in the last few years has certainly complicated the picture, while Italy has become one of the main host countries of immigrants with 3.600.000 legal foreign residents.

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The new law proposal Amato-Ferrero could represent a shift towards a better recognition of the rights of immigrants and their future integration in Italy. At the same time, however, the risk of growing xenophobia among parts of the Italian population is real.

Language and Education
Many migrant children in the EU suffer from a low level of education: early school leaving is more common among them with a consequent lower rate of education. Sometimes second generation pupils from a migrant background show lower school performance than the first generation. This indicates that the social divide may deepen over time. Socio-economical segregation can intensify as socially advantaged parents tend to withdraw their children from schools with high numbers of migrant pupils. Disparities between schools tend to increase over time.
Ján Figel', Furopean Commissioner for Fducation, Training, Culture and Youth, said: "If migrant children leave school with an experience of underachievement and segregation which carries on in their later lives, the risk is that such a pattern is perpetuated into the next generation ... evidence shows clearly that policies can make a difference... Exchanging experiences and learning from each other can be fruitful”
The right of migrant workers' children to be integrated in schools has been established by EU on July 1982 with directive no. 77/486. This directive states that all the members are forced to offer free courses of the official language of the host country and to adopt appropriate measures to teach children in their native tongue and culture, in cooperation with their countries of origin.
Researches on the causes contributing to the current educational disadvantage highlight that some key factors relate to the individual background of migrant pupils (low socio-economic background, language, family and community expectations). Data also show the importance of education systems and that some countries succeed better than others in reducing the gap between migrant and native pupils, thus demonstrating that policies may significantly influence school performance. Segregation is a downward spiral that affects children‟s motivation and performance+
Those systems which strongly prioritise equity in education are also the most effective in integrating migrant pupils. Among the policy measures which seem to be more useful are pre-school education, language learning, additional educational support such as mentoring and tutoring, intercultural education and partnerships with families and communities. Preventing segregation and desegregating “ghetto” schools seems a precondition to guarantee real equal opportunities to pupils. To do that, ensuring high quality standards in schools in relation to teaching and leadership, is essential.
From the beginning of the 90's Italy has applied this law on its territory, due to ever greater flows of immigrants.
In Italy the problem of immigrant pupils is rapidly acquiring importance: in 2005 their number was 425‟000, in 2007 it had grown to 570‟000 and in 2009 it has reached the amount of 700‟000 units. To handle this situation the Italian Minister of Education Mariastella Gelmini has imposed a limit of 30 per cent for immigrant pupils in every class, in order to prevent the formation of “ghetto” schools+ This limit of 30* won't include pupils born in Italy.

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Asylum seeker and Refugee

A refugee is a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality and is unable to or unwilling to return to his/her own country.
To receive refugees the government has built refugee camps. People may stay in these camps, receiving emergency food and medical aid, until it is safe to return to their homes or until they are retrieved by someone outside the camps.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is the head international agency which coordinates refugee protection. The UNHCR provides protection and assistance not only to refugees but also to other categories of displaced or needy people. These include asylum seekers, refugees who have returned home but still need help in rebuilding their lives, local civilian communities directly affected by the movements of refugees, stateless people and so-called internally displaced people.

Refugees in Italy
Italy has become one of Europe's major destinations for refugees, but still has no clear law on how to deal with them. The Italian government proposed an asylum bill in 1997, and the Senate approved it in November 1998. The authorities in Sicily say that the island is on the point of being unable to receive any more immigrants, and people are now talking openly of not only a humanitarian crisis but also a health crisis+ Italy‟s geographical position makes the country one of the principal maritime entry points into the European Union for migrants and asylum seekers coming from countries further and further away. In recent years this situation has led Italian authorities to take initiatives regarding the administration of its borders and the treatment of asylum seekers. This tendency is in line with the more general direction adopted by the European Union since the end of the 90s in its fight against illegal immigration.

The International Cities of Refugee Network is an association of cities and regions around the world dedicated to the value of freedom of expression. Potenza is one of these cities and at the moment is hosting several writers (e.g.. Hamza Zirem, a poet from Algeria)

Illegal immigrants

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Italy's southern coasts and islands are a favourite landing area for thousands of desperate people, transported illigaly to Italy and then through Italy to elsewhere in Europe. More deportations could, perhaps, reduce the numbers but, without the signature of joint agreements with the countries from whose coasts these immigrants embark, forced returns would hardly be effective. Many illegal immigrants return to Italy several times after deportation. Agreements with the other countries involved can be successful only if these countries receive support for development in exchange for the surveillance of illegal traffic in people, but this is not just a problem for Italy.

Immigrant strike on 1st March 2010

A group formed on facebook called “1st March 2010 Strike of Foreigners” was open to people of all races, gender, faith, education and political leanings, immigrants, descendants of immigrants and natives from Italy, France and other European coutries.
“We are brought together by awareness of the importance of the social, cultural and economic contribution of immigration to our country. We are outraged by the smear campaign against foreigners in Italy, which has led to a barbaric, racist atmosphere and the adoption of discriminatory laws which are far from the principles and the spirit of our Constitution,” says the Manifesto for “1st March 2010 Strike of Foreigners
The strike , led by Africans, was called to protest against racist murders and attacks, police harassment, immigration controls, severe exploitation and inhumane conditions in agriculture and other work. Not only males participated, but females as well, including sex workers.
The motto of the demonstration was”24 hours without us”.

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Peaceful demonstrations were held throughout Italy:
20,000 in Naples
15,000 in Milan
13,000 in Turin
20,000 in Rome
In order to participate many immigrants left their jobs for the day. Without them, many street-markets usually full of busy vendors were empty, many old people and children were left unattended, many stores were not supplied with fruit and vegetables, many construction sites remained closed.

Immigration and crime

In December 2008, the Bank of Italy published a study on the relationship between immigration and crime, an analysis carried out by professors Milo Bianchi (Paris School of Economics), Paolo Buonanno (University of Bergamo) and Paolo Pinotti (Bank of Italy). The study contributes to the intense debate, which exists in all countries affected by significant migration flows, on this theme.

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The study tried to establish whether the presence of immigrants has a direct effect on the incidence of various types of crimes (crimes against property, against persons and violations of the law on drugs). It used a database produced by crossing information on residence permits (data from the Interior Ministry) with crimes reported in the various regions of Italy during the period 1990-2003 ( data from the Ministry of Justice).
During the period under review, in Italy as a whole, an increase in the rate of crime did not correspond to the rapid increase in the number of foreigners. On the contrary, there was a decrease. At the regional level, however, areas that have attracted a greater number of immigrants have also seen higher rates in crime, due in particular to a higher incidence of crimes against property (80 per cent of total crimes in the sample under studied).
The study clearly excluded the hypothesis that migration contributes directly to increased crime. It only shows that areas with greater wealth attract a higher number of immigrants because there is the possibility of work, and where there is greater prosperity and a higher population, there is also an increase in crime.


The issue of migration and the situation in Italy and Europe is so complicated that only a specific European policy on immigration can help western European societies realistically tackle the problems created by this movement of people.
Franco Pittau, coordinator of the annual immigration statistics report commissioned by Caritas/Migrantes, a social wing of the Catholic Church said :"The most important thing is integration, the capability of living together. It is a common interest, if we think of our country in the next 10 or 20 years. And this needs to be reflected in the policy strategies."
It is time for us to open our eyes to a reality that Italy must face. We are in a period of globalization, which doesn't just mean the free movement of capital and ideas, but also free movement of people. We have to find a way to open our borders respecting human rights and not treating everyone like invaders.


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