Lack of legal immigration channel makes Italy’s struggle against smugglers even more expensive and harder. How Canadian system works


Pubblicato il 09/09/2017
Ultima modifica il 09/09/2017 alle ore 15:34

Italy has for years been absorbing Europe’s flow of migrants hoping to start a new life on the continent, but there is in fact no immigration system that allows people to apply for entrance other than for seasonal agricultural jobs. Last year, 181 000 migrants landed on Italian shores, most of them through the Libyan smuggling channel. Many arrived with nothing, after an expensive crossing of the Mediterranean - which costs for the majority of these people between 2 and 8 thousand euro. When they arrive, they have no choice other than to ask for asylum. In 2016, Rome spent 3.7 billion euro rescuing them and offering reception. 

In contrast, almost twice as many migrants arrived in Canada last year, legally and safely. The country requires them to prove that their have enough money to support themselves during the first months after their arrival.  


Those who wish to emigrate to Canada have the possibility to apply online for different types of work visa. Between 2011 and 2015, an average of 260 thousand people entered Canada each year through this channel, which allows the authorities to select people with a better knowledge of the country’s official languages, English and French, and with higher competencies. In 2016, the number of arrivals exceeded 300 thousand - which had been the initial goal - and this year the government hopes to reach the same level. A ‘jobs bank’ with thousands of offers for foreign workers can be consulted online. But competencies are not enough, and Canadians don’t offer anything for free. The possibility to enter the country is granted only to those who prove they can find a job and have at least 12,300 Canadian dollars (about 8,400 euro), or more if they come with their own family. The sum requested 22,856 Canadian dollars (about 15,600 euro) if they move with a spouse and two children. 


Currently, the only way to legally enter Italy as a migrant is through a procedure foreseen by the so-called flows decree (“decreto flussi”), which gives access to seasonal work visas. Each year, Rome decides how many of the applicants are allowed to get in. However, the numbers have been reduced substantially in recent years, and since 2012 the government issues only seasonal permits, leaving economic migrants with no possibility to stay in Italy for a longer period of time. The only option left to them is thus illegality, which has a high economic cost, apart from risks and suffering. Crossing the Mediterranean aboard a dinghy costs between 700 and 1,500 euro, but the journey is much longer. Migrants from the Horn of Africa, for example, have to travel for months through Sudan and Chad, spending between 1,500 and 6 thousand euro. Therefore, many of the migrants reaching Italy spend between 2 and 8 thousand euro for the whole journey. 


And then there is the money spent by the Italian government. This year, Rome plans to spend 4.2 billion euro for migrants, 0.25 percent of the country’s GDP. Nineteen percent of this sum goes to sea rescue, 68 to reception, and 13 percent to health and education. Italy has also accepted to offer 99 million euro to Turkey in 2017, as part of the agreement between Ankara and the EU, while other funds have been promised to some African countries. 


For migrants who manage to reach Italy, the only way to stay in the country is to apply for asylum. During the first two months after the application, they cannot work and must be supported by the State. Only after this period of time asylum seekers can be legally employed, and at this point many of them do find a job. The decision on their asylum application arrives in average after a year and a half, and in the meantime they continue to work. However, if their request is rejected, they become ‘illegal’ once again. In March 2017, one hundred companies in Turin were forced to write to the local representative of the national government to ask the authorities not to expel the migrants they had employed. Thanks to the prefect’s intervention, those migrants were granted humanitarian protection. It does not envisage a proper work permit, but it was the only way to allow them to stay in Italy. “There’s a normative short circuit,” says Tatiana Esposito, head of the immigration division at the Italian Labour ministry. “Even if someone finds a job, when the asylum request is rejected, from a legal point of view we have no choice but to expel them.”  


Yet, the Centre of Studies of Confindustria (CSC, the think tank of the biggest Italian association of manufacturers), has been advocating for some time now for an organized immigration system. Director of the centre, Luca Paolazzi, noted that without foreign workers’ contribution, Italy’s GDP would have been lower by 124 billion euro, or 8.7 percent, in 2015. “An organized selection model would make much more sense,” said Paolazzi. “Now it’s totally random.”  


According to a study by CSC, “two Italians out of three believe immigration entails costs for the country, but all studies indicate that the impact of immigration on Italian public finances is positive. And although more than half of Italians think that because of migrants it is more difficult to find a job, in reality foreigners take jobs that Italians wouldn’t be willing to perform in any case, and in some industries their contribution is fundamental.” If the 181 thousand migrants who reached Italy last year came under a proper immigration system, added Paolazzi, they could have contributed roughly 4.5 billion euro to Italy’s economy. Former European commissioner Emma Bonino comments: “It is one of the rare times in which national interests coincide with our values.” 


In order to promote their integration into the job market, last year Confindustria reached an agreement with the ministry of the Interior to offer training to migrant workers. And the ministry of Labour has offered 1,667 apprenticeships through two separate projects, hailed by the European Commission.  


Tito Boeri, the President of INPS, the National Social Security Institute, has taken up the issue more than once, pointing out that foreigners contribute to the social security system much more than they make use of it. Without migrants, he believes, INPS would lose 38 billion euro in the next 22 years. 


“The EU and its member states need to manage flows, rather than aim at cutting them to zero. To do this, legal migration channels should be opened so that illegal channels can be shut via a series of readmission agreements,” said Mattia Toaldo from the European Council on Foreign Relations. “Ultimately, the best way to respond to the anxiety of their citizens about migration is for European leaders to focus on the integration of migrants in the European society. With no opportunity for legal migration, it is often ‘illegal’ migrants who end up in Europe, which makes integration all the more difficult.”  




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