Immigration is a key factor of the economic and social situation of Italy: it is a valid tool for evaluating the Italian labour market and it is important to understand the different laws that regulate our country. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Italy has registered several and consistent flows of foreigners, reaching nowadays more than 5millions.
The first law was voted in December 30th, 1986 (called “The Foschi Law”), but it was too complex to be put in practise. Four years later, the Parliament introduced “The Martinelli Law” in order to redefine the status of refugee, planning the migratory flows and specify procedures and residence in Italy. At that time, however, no further measures could not be enacted, and Italy suffered the first exodus of thousands of Albanians. On March 7th, 1991 more than 27.000 people arrived in Puglia. It was a significant emergency and in fact the migratory perception changed, affecting negatively the public opinion.
In 1998, “The Turco-Napolitano Law” tried to stabilize the migration phenomenon and simplify the access to basic health services for illegal immigrants. The law also strengthened the policies of control and expulsion, creating temporary centres for Detention and Assistance (CPT), in order to identify and keep under control immigrants without documents.
In 2002, the centre right parties announced further restrictive norms, with “The Bossi-Fini Law”: including a decreasing of residence permits’ duration, better controls and administrative procedures. The illegal foreigners had to be escorted to the border, maximum CPTs permanence increased from 30 to 60 days and all fingerprints were taken. Furthermore, due to the aggravation of illegal immigration, the Parliament introduced a series of rules in the field of penal law (Decree Law n.11/2009, called “The Maroni Decree Law”): the maximum period of detention was extended to 6 months, time to obtain Italian citizenship was lengthened and a penal-point system was introduced to withdraw permit to foreigners who do not respect the rules. Recently, with the conversion of “The Minniti Decree Law” some important measures were adopted in Italy. Specifically, 26 Courts specialized on immigration have been created, quicker procedures based on interviews and more protections for minors.
The Right of Asylum is recognized by the art.10 of Italian Constitution and it is given to the foreigners who are prevented the real exercise of the democratic liberties in their countries of origin. Even if the right of asylum is often used as synonymous of the Recognition of the Status of Refugee, the two terms differ because the latter cannot be given to foreigners who have had only their democratic liberties repressed, but it is necessary that they have suffered specific action of persecution, too. In fact, the refugee is a foreign citizen that is out of the territory of the country of which he/she has the citizenship for fear of being persecuted. The Italian Parliament, with the decree law n.113/2008, has accelerated the procedures of examination of the asylum application, has reformed the residence permit for humanitarian nature and has shortened the detention duration in the centre for repatriation.
In Italy the Right of Asylum entered with the adhesion to the Convention of Geneva on July 28th, 1951. Instead, the European Union started a common system of asylum in 1997 with the Dublin Regulation. In fact, the increase of the migratory flows toward Europe requires more policies to regulate the legal immigration and to limit the illegal one. The European Union competence is to define the conditions of entry and permanence, while the Member States have the faculty to establish the number of admissions for people looking for employment. Furthermore, European Union faces the illegal immigration with a politics of repatriation and is able to support financially the Member States in determined circumstances.
The Dublin Regulation which came into force on September 1st, 1997assesses that the country responsible for the asylum is the first one that applicant has arrived. This has had the consequence to leave most of the migratory flows to frontier countries as Greece and Italy. In fact, what happened on August 20th, 2018 is a great example of denied landing in Italy because the master of the Coast Guard ship “Diciotti” received the order from Minister Salvini not to let 137 refugees off the coast of Malta disembark near Catania. Malta has refused to accept them and Italy also to let them disembark, because there are no common rules on the division of refuges in European union. Despite the humanitarian appeals to the government, they were allowed to land in Catania only 6 days later.
Since 2015, more than 6,000 people have lost their life in the Mediterranean Sea and the European Union has launched three Operations:
- The operation SOPHIA: began in May 2015 and it aims to reduce the traffic of human beings in the Mediterranean Sea. Until now, 143 people arrested, and 545 boats destructed for trafficking.
- The operation Themis (ex Triton): launched in Feb 2018, this operation sustains Italy with the monitoring of central Mediterranean Sea.
- The operation Poseidon covers the oriental Mediterranean Sea since 2006 and it monitors the sea border between Greece and Turkey.
Immigrants often follow illegal way to reach the country of destination and Italy seems to be one of the favourites, because its coasts are near Africa. People pay very huge sums in exchange of the hope of a new life and the so-called smugglers put them on boats of scares quality and safety.
It is important to emphasize that between January and September 2018 (under “The Minniti Decree Law”) 80% less of people arrived in Italy than in the first nine months of 2017. With 884 arrivals, September 2018 recorded the lowest number of arrivals in recent years. They are not social alarm numbers but the urgency and necessity of a legislative act in the form of decree law has a purely political nature.
The so-called “Salvini Law” (Decree Law 113/2018) has introduced some measures to reduce illegal immigration and to strengthen the effectiveness of administrative actions in support of security policies. This law, according to some experts in the field, would present, in some parts, profiles of unconstitutionality, violating article 10 of the Italian Constitution. Undoubtedly and beyond the propaganda, the latest measures that have been taken do not fully fit in fighting human traffickers. In fact, if we want to strengthen control, this cannot be done by disassembling the only system that works, the SPRAR, in favor of extraordinary structures (now the only ones in force), that could also increase social tensions. The best way to deal with migratory flows is to ensure territorial systems of acceptance and integration, and, above all, human rights respect. What needs to be contrasted, however, is the criminal network of migrant smuggling through the strengthening of undercover operations, more cooperation between states, the implementation of international investigation and repatriation agreements. Some of these points are, in fact, underlined in the so-called “The Salvini-bis Law” (Decree Law 53/2019), where also sanctions for those who transgress the limits of rest, transit and entry into the territorial sea are included.
It is also essential to point out that in the last case of SeaWatch 3, the ECHR (European Court of Human Rights) has avoid from ‘censorship’ Italian law for violation of international treaties because the case was particularly too complex and it was the result of provocations and delicate political balances. Furthermore, important are the declarations made publicly by the representatives of the Italian Ministry of the Interior against persons under investigation, which is certainly a violation of the presumption of innocence, regardless of what the outcome of the ongoing criminal trial is. In addition, a crime can only be verify by the judicial authority, while with the Decree Law “The Salvini-bis Law” it seems that it is the administrative authority that assesses whether or not there is a crime.
What is clear is that the issue of migration flows is an epochal issue that needs more sectoral studies rather than ideological. It would be appropriate (even if it takes long time) to address the underlying problems, such as poverty, war and the lack of human rights, without considering other economic or social matters. It is certain that helping migrants is not a duty but a right that requires, for this reason, a necessary comparison and cooperation between EU, members and the other States.
According to the latest statements of Ursula Von der Leyen, new President of European Commission, and David Sassoli, new President of European Parliament, Europe seems willing to support these needs.
Will a change be really possible?
Dott. Valerio Oliveto
Dott. Luca Gaudiosi