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Hurdles in Making Italy's Illegal Workers ‘Legal’

[all links in Italian unless otherwise stated]

On 16 July, 2012 the Monti government approved a legislative decree to conditionally allow, the regularisation of thousands of illegal workers following a declaration by their employer.

Unfortunately, several months later the results of this conditional amnesty have been below par. The video below, published on the website of the voluntary association Naga, explains the conditions and the application process set out by the decree:

Meanwhile, at the heart of a recent “il professionista risolve” [the professional's response] column on Tgcom24.it was the following assessment of the initiative:

Poco più di 134.000 le istanze inviate, meno della metà del potenziale pubblico interessato, che si è ipotizzato oscilli tra i 300.000 e i 500.000 soggetti.

Just over 134,000 requests were submitted, that's less than half of the number of people who are potentially affected, which is estimated to be somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000

The conditions attached prevented the expected results being achieved. The CGIL union in Lecco, Lombardy, outlined some examples of the process and conditions set down by the law:

L’emersione può riguardare un rapporto di lavoro dipendente di qualsiasi settore, a tempo pieno, e per il solo lavoro domestico, anche a tempo parziale. Il rapporto di lavoro deve essere in corso almeno dal 9 maggio 2012.
Il datore di lavoro dovrà pagare la somma di €1.000 alla presentazione della domanda. Alla firma del contratto dovrà quindi dimostrare di avere versato contributi e retribuzione per almeno 6 mesi. Sono esclusi i datori di lavoro condannati per tratta o sfruttamento di prostituzione e minori, per aver dato lavoro a immigrati irregolari, per caporalato, per favoreggiamento dell’immigrazione clandestina.

The regularisation can apply to employment in any sector, if full-time, and, if part time, only in the domestic sector. The employee must be in the position since the 9th of May 2012, at the very latest. The employer must pay the sum of €1,000 when submitting the request. When signing the contract the employer must, therefore, prove that they have paid contributions and wages for at least six months. Employers excluded from the initiative include those who have been convicted of trafficking or exploitation of prostitutes or minors, who have employed illegal immigrants, who participated in the gangmaster system and employers who have encouraged illegal immigration.

Louis Benjamin Ndong, in a post on the blog of the collective “Alzo La Mano Adesso” [I put my hand up now], declares that:

Se da un lato questa regolarizzazione darà la possibilità a molte persone di uscire dalla propria condizione di invisibilità, conseguendo un riconoscimento anche da parte della società istituzionalizzata che finora l’aveva negato, dall’altro costituirà un nuovo ed ennesimo limbo per i tanti immigrati che, privi degli adeguati strumenti, quale un reale contratto di lavoro, si affideranno nelle mani di truffatori e venditori di bugie dell’ultima ora. Purtroppo la legge in questione, concepita in primo luogo per fare cassa, non possiede i vincoli necessari per arginare questo rischio …

Although, on one hand, this regularisation of their legal status will give many people the chance to escape from their seeming invisibility and represents their recognition which has always been denied them by the institutions. On the other hand however, it will be yet another limbo for the very many immigrants who, deprived of adequate resources, such as a genuine work contract, will put their trust in conmen and those who trade in the latest lies. Sadly the law in question, originally conceived to top up the state coffers, cannot prevent this risk…

Demonstration in Brescia, Lombardy, 6th of November 2012. Photo by Zic Photo on Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence.

As Marco Massaroni writes on the citizen journalism website FaiNotizia:

La disposizione transitoria, prevista dal decreto sulla regolarizzazione si è  presentata non priva di criteri restrittivi, controversie e difficoltà.
Da subito si sono espresse preoccupazioni sul fatto che questa regolarizzazione possa aprire spazi a numerose truffe, poichè in un Paese con centinaia di migliaia di irregolari è facile trovarne tanti disposti a pagare, anche a caro prezzo, la promessa di un permesso di soggiorno.

The temporary nature of the arrangement, as set down by the regularisation law, is not without restrictive criteria, controversies and difficulties. Concern was immediately expressed about the fact that this regularisation could leave the door open for fraud because, in a country with hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, it's easy to find lots of them who are prepared to pay, even very high prices, for the promise of easily obtaining a residence permit.

A post on the website Meltingpot points out:

I prezzi lievitano e dai 3.500/4.000 euro di media della scorsa procedura, sono passati a 5.000/8.000 euro per accedere a questa emersione.     

Un mercato dei diritti di soggiorno che nessuno vuole fermare e che anzi, proprio grazie alle scelte del Governo, trova sempre più spazio.

Eppure lo sanno tutti. Basta mettere il naso nei luoghi di incontro dei migranti nelle diverse città per scoprire questo o quel commercialista offrire emersioni facili a caro prezzo, questo o quel procacciatore che promette, dietro il pagamento di lauti compensi, di farti avere il tanto sperato permesso di soggiorno.

Prices are increasing and, from the €3,500 – 4,000 it cost before, it has increased to between €5,000 and €8,000 under this initiative. 

It's a market in residency rights that no-one wants to put a stop to and that, thanks to the Government's choices, is becoming ever more widespread.

And they all know it. You only need to go to where migrants gather together in any city to find this or that adviser offering to ensure regularisation, at a high price, or this or that agent promising, on payment of a generous fee, to get you the longed for residence permit.

Pubblicogiornale.it uploaded this video which shows an encounter between an immigrant and an agent who wanted to be paid 5,000 Euros to get his paper work in order. And another video from  exposes also their faces.

 The credibility of these amnesty results achieved so far are open to question. Massimiliano Zani, the organiser of CNA World Rimini explains why, in his view, this amnesty should be considered a lost opportunity:

Intanto è da rilevare che non è assolutamente credibile la corrispondenza degli invii, rispetto all'attività svolta.

Basta il dato dei lavoratori provenienti dal Marocco, tradizionalmente assenti dal settore domestico; su un totale di 15.600 domande, ne sono state inviate ben 12.600 per lavori di colf o badante; lo stesso dicasi per il Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egitto, Senegal, Tunisia, ecc. Viene spontanea una domanda: se da questi Paesi non sono mai giunti lavoratori che si impiegavano nel settore domestico, come mai le domande sono concentrate in quell’area di attività? La risposta è evidente: infatti il costo per una richiesta relativa a colf e badante non supera i 2.000 euro (tra una tantum e contributi previdenziali), mentre in settori come l’edilizia, il commercio, o l’ agricoltura il costo può essere tra due a quattro volte maggiore.

To start with, it must be pointed out that the correspondence between the requests submitted and the work carried out stretches credulity.

You only need to look at the data on workers from Morocco, who have not, traditionally, been represented in the domestic sector. Of the 15,000 applications submitted, 12,600 of them have been for jobs as a home help or carer. The same applies to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia and so on, which immediately prompts the question, if domestic workers have never come from these countries before, how can it be that the applications are concentrated in this activity sector? The answer is obvious, the cost of an application for home help or a care-giver is no more than €2,000 (a one off payment plus social security contributions), while, in the construction, trade or agricultural sectors the cost can be between two and four times higher.

And it goes on to explain how certain employers get around the law by declaring on the application that their employee works as domestic help or as a care-giver:

Ecco dunque che molti datori hanno optato di spendere al massimo euro 2.000, come previsto per l’emersione di una colf o badante a tempo parziale, rispetto ai €3/8.000 per l’emersione di un lavoratore a tempo pieno di ogni altro settore; ovviamente appena ottenuto il permesso di soggiorno, si potrà migrare in altro contratto di lavoro con lo stesso o con altro datore. Un altro elemento che ha influito sul modesto risultato è costituito dalla dimostrazione di essere stati presenti sul territorio italiano ininterrottamente, dal 31 dicembre 2011, con attestazione di un “organismo pubblico”.

That is why many employers have opted to spend €2,000 at most, the sum required for a part-time home help or care-giver, compared to the €3,000 – 8,000 for the regularisation of a full-time worker in any other sector. Obviously, once they have received the residence permit, they can change to another work contract with the same or another employer. Another element which has influenced the modest result is the need to prove that you have been in Italy since the 31 December 2011, without having left the country, and to have this certified by a “public body”.

How can that last condition possibly be fulfilled when the illegal immigrant, by nature of that very status, risks imprisonment if discovered? In fact, as Antonio Maria Ricci points out on his blog:

Il reato è previsto nel  DLG 286/98 del 2009 detto pacchetto sicurezza Maroni.

Si articola in due parti: articolo 10 bis che istituisce il reato di clandestinità perseguibile penalmente con ammenda e/o reclusione e articolo 14 che prevede la sanzione amministrativa che comporta l’espulsione.

The crime was established by ordnance 286/98 of 2009, known as the Maroni security package.
It is laid down in two parts: in article 10 bis, which established the crime of being an illegal immigrant, punishable under law with fines and/or imprisonment and in article 14 which sets down the administrative sanction of deportation.

In order to simplify this requirement the following measures were adopted, as outlined on the blog ItAliena:

Saranno accettati, sempre se di data antecedente al 31 dicembre 2011: certificato di iscrizione scolastica del figlio del lavoratore straniero, tessere nominative dei mezzi pubblici, sanzioni stradali o amministrative o multe di ogni genere, titolarità di schede telefoniche di compagnie italiane (Tim, Wind, Vodafone, 3, ecc…), documenti rilasciati dai centri di accoglienza o ricoveri anche se religiosi o del privato sociale, documentazione rilasciata da ambasciate o consolati in Italia.

The following will be accepted, once they date to before the 31 December 2011: the school inscription certificate of the foreign worker's child, public transport pass, traffic or administrative sanctions or any other kind of fine,  phone cards from an Italian operator (Tim, Wind, Vodafone, 3, etc.), documents issued by reception centres  or shelters, including religious or private ones, documents issued by embassies or consulates in Italy.

There's just one problem, as illegal immigrants how can they possibly enter into any contract?

To give an insight into illegal immigrants terror at the prospect of seeing all the sacrifices they have made since leaving their home country to reach the longed for Italy vanish into nothing, Maruan shares the story of Blessed, the young daughter of illegal Nigerian immigrants, on the web page Anolf – Giovani di 2° Generazione [the Youth of the 2nd Generation], in a post entitled: La storia di Blessed, clandestina prodigio promossa con tutti dieci [The story of Blessed, the illegal immigrant at the top of her class]:

La sua pagella è l'unica rimasta a scuola, affissa in bacheca ma non ancora ritirata dai genitori, che la maestra sta provando a contattare da giorni. Se è vero che la legge italiana garantisce il diritto-dovere dei figli di immigrati di essere iscritti alla scuola dell'obbligo, indipendentemente dalla regolarità della propria posizione e da quella dei genitori (articolo 45 del DPR n. 394/1999), non c'è norma che tenga di fronte al terrore dei genitori di essere espulsi.

Her report card is the only one left at the school, still pined to the noticeboard but still not collected by her parents, who the teacher has been trying to contact for days. While it may be true that Italian law sets down the right and obligation for immigrants’ children to be enrolled in compulsory education, regardless of their own legal status and that of their parents (article 45 of Presidential Decree n.394/1999), there's no law which stands up in face of the parents’ terror of being deported.

Another relevant requirement is the obligation to pay €1,000 per worker and the other costs owed to the Treasury and the INPS [National Institute of Social Insurance] for six months. These should be paid by the employer but, in reality, it has fallen to the worker to pay them. The French site bayediouf.seneweb.com calculates that, just counting the 6,296 Senegalese affected, the total amount is around €12,056,918  and adds [fr]:

Ce montant de quasi 8 Milliards CFa est le chiffre déboursé par nos compatriotes et en attendant la convocation pour le contrat de séjour et successivement le permis de séjour. En cas de rejet les sommes ne seront pas remboursées.

This sum of almost 8 million West African CFA francs is the figure paid out by our countrymen while waiting for the summons for the provisional residence permit and then, eventually, the residence permit. In case of refusal the money will not be returned.

In the last few years, under the influence of the right, Italian governments have accumulated a veritable arsenal of xenophobic judicial measures. Meanwhile, according to a report by the Berlusconi government, between 2010 and 2020 the working population in Italy is predicted to fall between 5.5% and 7.9%; as a result, more immigrants will be needed. Between 2011 and 2015, around 100,000 additional immigrants may be needed while, from 2016 to 2020, this number is predicted to rise to 260,000.

  • SGfan888

    In spite of all the arguments above about the defects of regularization law, why is there no changes being made?

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