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Asylum seekers in Italy, April 2017. More than 600,000 people live in the country without residency papers / Photo: UNCHR

Italy to regularise 600,000 undocumented migrants

A week after Pope Francis said undocumented migrants working as farmhands in Italy should be granted legal status, the government may soon issue legal residency papers to up to 600,000 irregular migrants in the country, according to a new report of the Italian news agency ANSA

The Italian minister for agricultural policies, Teresa Bellanova, wants to introduce a measure regularising undocumented foreign workers in the ‘May decree’ which should be approved by the council of ministers this week.

Bellanova on Tuesday said it was “not possible anymore to buy time,” talking about the measure.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese is working on the dossier.

Bellanova, a member of the small Italia Viva party (IV) of ex-premier Matteo Renzi, is pushing to regularise about 600,000 undocumented foreign workers.

In the ruling coalition, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is in favour of the measure while the 5-Star Movement (M5s) is pushing on the breaks.

So far, Labour Minister Nunzia Catalfo, a member of M5S who is directly involved in the reform, has not taken an official position.

‘Take responsibility for regularisation’

Bellanova has said that the State needs to regularise 600,000 ”invisible” workers. ”What I have told colleagues in the majority is very clear,” said Bellanova, explaining that the government needs to ”take the responsibility to regularise people who have been in our country and probably worked for years.”

“If this doesn’t happen, the State becomes not only an accomplice but also a promoter of the illegality in which these workers are forced,” the minister for agricultural policies went on to say.

Bellanova said these people, ”who not only work in the countryside but also in construction or in families, need to be granted a stay permit. Leaving things as they are means fostering illegality, unfair competition and the gang-master system,” she concluded.

Bellanova and Lamorgese have discussed a measure to grant seasonal stay permits that can be renewed with a job contract.

However, Lamorgese is allegedly working on the regularisation of about one-third of the 600,000 undocumented workers estimated by Bellanova.

The interior minister wants to deal with the most urgent issue, the regularisation of farmhands needed for harvesting, while dealing with the most dangerous situations like illegal tent camps in the countryside of Puglia and Calabria where migrants live in dire sanitary conditions in the midst of the coronavirus emergency.

Moreover, Lamorgese wants to regularise undocumented Italian workers.

Bellanova and the minister for the south, Giuseppe Provenzano, would also like to include domestic workers and caregivers in the measure, which would significantly increase the number of affected workers — a move likely to be opposed by members of the M5S.

Farmers’ union say measure would increase State revenues by 1.2 billion

Meanwhile the confederation of Italian farmers CIA said the regularisation of undocumented farm hands would bring an additional 1.2 billion euros into national coffers.

According to CIA, ”if we don’t act quickly”, the regularisation ”risks to have an impact in too many months’ time, when the harvesting season will be over and products will be abandoned in fields because of the lack of manpower, with the consequence that families will find empty shelves in supermarkets.”

Anti-migrant euro sceptic League leader Matteo Salvini expressed opposition. Referring to the government he said: “First they let dozens of mafiosi and killers get out of jail and then they try to regularise hundreds of thousands of illegals. We have, all together, the moral duty to stop them.”

© ANSA

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