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

220,000 migrants without papers applied for regularisation in Italy – Minister

About 220,000 applications for regularisation in Italy have been submitted by resident foreigners without papers since 1 June, when the scheme was launched as part of COVID-19 economic rejuvenation measures, according to Deputy Interior Minister Matteo Mauri.

The minister made the revelation on 13 October after a meeting at the prefecture of Foggia in the region of Puglia, where he called for an end to the exploitation of undocumented farmworkers in the region.

“207,000 people applied for the regularization, in addition to 13,000 who asked for a permit to look for a job, so we are talking about 220,000 people,” Mauri said. “In the report we drafted before the start of the regularisation, we wrote on a piece of paper that we would probably regularise 220,000 people, which is exactly what happened.”

According to the decree, which allows irregular migrants to apply for temporary residency papers, foreigners who had a stay permit that expired after 31 October 2019 could apply for a new six-month permit. The decree applied to foreign workers employed in specific sectors, including agriculture and domestic work, as well as unemployed migrants who previously worked in these sectors.

“More legality, more regularity and as a consequence more benefits for all, because producing conditions for high-quality integration is in everybody’s interest,” deputy minister Mauri said.

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He said his ministry was actively fighting the exploitation of undocumented migrants in agriculture in the Foggia region. “We have met with law enforcement, the prefecture, unions and associations. Unfortunately, we are not dealing with an emergency but with a problem that has existed for a very long time,” he said.

The Foggia region is known for makeshift migrant camps where gang-masters look for workers. Living conditions in these shanty towns are poor. This summer, several inhabitants caught COVID-19, and one migrant died in a fire outbreak.

Mauri said that “a different, dignified living solution must be found” for migrant workers, and that ending exploitative work situations was key to this.

“At the center of everything there is always the problem of exploitation, because if a person is not paid for what he or she does but is underpaid and in some cases enslaved, these situations become inevitable,” he said.

The regularisation scheme, which began on 1 June, was scheduled to be closed on 15 August. There are an estimated 600,000 undocumented migrants in Italy and the confederation of Italian farmers CIA said the regularisation of undocumented farm workers would bring an additional 1.2 billion euros into national coffers.

Felix Dappah

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