Migration to Italy is a well established phenomenon. For about forty years, migrants from third world countries have entered the peninsula in search of better economic conditions or because they are fleeing armed conflict or natural disasters in their countries of origin. Over recent years, the number of immigrants has grown exponentially. Currently in Italy there are 4,235,058 resident immigrants in an overall population of around 60 million inhabitants.
Although over the last twenty years the presence of persons from third world countries has been growing, it’s difficult to point to any concrete integration processes. For many foreign migrants the normative and partly cultural barriers in social and working Italian life is rendering the full enjoyment of rights particularly hard. In order to overcome these barriers it is necessary to enact integration policies that aim at removing inequality and discrimination. As shall I, debates on the subject in the SEJ have focused on the labour market and rights connected to citizenship.
With regards to the labour market, I feel, Italy should proceed in a different direction. First of all, a strategy implying the elimination of any form of discrimination direct, indirect, multiple or otherwise should be instigated. It is key to reform that those normative frameworks that are today in force and which link the right of an immigrant to live in Italy to an employment contract should be dealt with. In this respect it becomes paramount to bridge the ‘short circuit’ caused by Law 30, which radically altered the labour market in Italy by introducing forms of precarious and flexible employment, and the Consolidation Act on Immigration.
By ‘short circuit’ I refer to those causes triggered by the fact that the informal economy in Italy is above the average of other developed countries, and that this in particular effects foreign workers from third countries. These foreign workers then get trapped in a vicious circle: they have a better chance of getting informal work if they are ‘illegals’, have not work permit. This leads to greater risk taking with immigrants consolidating their status as irregular migrants rather than opting for ‘legalisation’. In this sense, incentives that ‘unveil’ informal work and the identification of ‘automatic’ tools for the legalisation and safeguarding of those without a valid residence permit should become important elements of any reform strategy. What is equally required, however, are a set of more effective anti-discrimination standards and tools and a media campaign against racism and xenophobia. Furthermore, fighting the pre-conditions of exploitation would require the promotion, extension and strengthening of Article 18 of the Consolidation Act on Immigration.
Another set of reforms should centre on citizenship rights. For example, the rules concerning the acquisition of citizenship are very complex and should be simplified. Firstly then, the concept of jus soli (enabling those who were born in Italy to automatically assume Italian citizenship) should be introduced – thus abandoning the principle of ius sanguinis (discriminating against non-ethnic italians). At the same time jus soli should be enacted retrospectively to first generation migrants (i.e. those parents who have immigrated to Italy and have since given birth to children in the country). Secondly, the required residency time necessary to be considered for citizenship should be reduced and the procedures simplified. These reforms must be accompanied by the repeal of the crime of illegal immigration, which is both constitutionally problematic and risks triggering ‘short-circuits’ in the labour market and further hindering any further legal integration of migrants as Italian citizens.
Another problem is the difficulty, and in some cases the impossibility, of access to welfare rights and the welfare system. Uniformed requirements which enable migrants access to rights and welfare services should be promoted by, for example, a greater presence of cultural mediators. Furthermore, migrant workers should be offered the opportunity to benefit from pension contributions, even if their countries of origin have not signed bilateral agreements with Italy. At the very least they should be given the opportunity to enjoy those pension contributions they’ve paid in Italy.
Finally, suffrage should be extended to migrants: voting in local and regional elections should be allowed once granted a residency permit. Voting in national elections (once revised the law on citizenship) should be allowed for all those coming from third world countries, for those having achieved Italian citizenship and for those who, until now, have been denied representation in the Italian parliament.
The reforms I have laid out in this article are aimed at promoting and ensuring equality of treatment for Italian citizens and foreigners alike. The improvement of living and employment conditions of immigrants, would have positive effects on the entire Italian population. The positive knock on effect of addressing the economic and legal causes of irregular migration and work, on the effects and perceptions of security in Italian society would eliminate the source of populist anxiety so prevalent in Italian (and European) media and political debate.
 Dossier Statistico Immigrazione Caritas Migrantes 2010. XX Report.