Italy and the future of migration
In recent years, migration policies in some of the EU countries have become stricter. These changes aim to counter migrations in unsustainably large numbers. Here is a look at some of the factors that are shaping Italy’s immigration climate.
Italy overtook Greece in 2016 to become the main point of entry into Europe for migrants and asylum seekers. Matteo Salvini, former Prime and Interior Minister of Italy, leads the far-right League Party. Salvini campaigns against immigration to Italy. During his term of office, Salvini closed Italy’s ports to migrant rescue ships. The far-right coalition sees migrants as a problem for Italy. If the far-right prevails, the fate of migrants to Italy would be uncertain. However, this is only one part of a much bigger picture.
Amnesty for productivity
Migrant workers in Italy recently received some good news. On May 13, the Italian government granted a six-month-long amnesty to undocumented migrants living in the country. The amnesty extends to migrants working in the agriculture and fishing industries, as well as home care workers without residence permits. The amnesty will only affect about 200,000 of the 700,000 undocumented migrants in Italy, according to an estimate by the Italian government. The move attracted criticism from activists, particularly over the limited-time nature of the amnesty. The Italian government clarified that the amnesty only intended to address Italy’s labour shortages. In a speech on May 13, Italy’s agriculture minister said that the amnesty would help bolster Italy’s inadequate workforce. On May 21, migrant agricultural workers protested the temporary nature of the amnesty with a nationwide strike. Despite these actions, many migrants are relieved by the extension.
Short and long-term solutions
The acceptance of immigration in Italy is strongly linked to its economic value. Farming associations in Europe have highlighted issues of labour shortages in the farming sector. It is widely acknowledged that agriculture depends in part on migrant labour. Some European governments have tried to replace migrant workers in agriculture with unemployed citizens from other sectors. However, these approaches were unsuccessful in improving labour conditions. Human rights groups consider the limited time amnesty merely a temporary patch for a wound that requires treatment that is more permanent.
Migrants often suffer the worst impacts of economic disasters. With the loss of livelihoods, many are suffering from severe financial difficulties. Discrimination and homelessness exacerbate the conditions caused by shortages of food. Migrants living in overcrowded temporary facilities in Italy are more prone to being infected by the coronavirus. During the lockdown, the government offices that attend to migrants’ issues were closed. In such a situation migrants had no option but to turn to organizations such as the Baobab association, asylum seekers in Rome, UNHCR, and the LESS Cooperation Sociale for help. Those living in Naples and Solerno turned to church associations for their most basic needs.
An uncertain future
In 2017, Italy and Libya signed an agreement to toughen border controls and restrict migrant flows. This move worsened the situation of migrants in Libya. The Council of Europe criticized the Italian government on its role in the situation, which involved cases of human rights violations. In response, the Italian Foreign Minister vowed in 2019 to improve the terms of the agreement. In late 2019 the minister also agreed to involve the UN in assisting refugees and asylum seekers. However, in 2020 with the far-right gaining popularity in Europe, things may change again for the worse.
Resilience and priorities
Migrants leave their home countries in search of greener pastures in Europe. They often engage in poorly paid and demanding jobs. Migrants send remittances to their families back home using channels such as the Ria Money Transfer App. Despite their hardships, migrants show much resilience. They prioritize their families back home and endure tough times to give their loved ones better lives.
The migration will continue to be an important subject in Europe. The far-right may be a strong voice in Italy now. However, there are other forces at play. Migration has raised questions about societal values and the protection of human rights. In due time these issues will be addressed and migration to Italy will grow again.