Note on the Communication from the Commission to the council and the European Parliament ON A COMMUNITY IMMIGRATION POLICY
The recent communication to the European Parliament on a joint policy on immigration issues is a big step towards the harmonization foreseen in the Treaty of Amsterdam. In particular the communication underlines that the creation of legal ways of immigration which are practical and effective is a fundamental element in a balanced immigration policy and represents a conditio sine qua non to counterbalance illegal immigration. From this point of view, the preparation of a common juridical framework for the admission of non EU citizens – particularly those who request entry into a member state for economic reasons – could constitute a base for the creation of such a policy. The purpose of this note is to present, in the light of Italian experience, some points which could contribute to an adequate and longterm definition of the criteria for admission of economic migrants.
The legislation on immigration for work in Italy, throughout the 1990s, limited the possibility of legal entry to workers taken on by employers before arrival. Since there was legally no possibility of direct discussion on Italian territory between employer and employed to arrange such employment, this option was not often used by immigrants, notwithstanding the fact that the Italian labour market in recent years – also through “regularisation” measures – absorbed a significant number of foreign workers (some 100,000 a year) and the law did not pose limits on the number of entry permits for work. In any case the social needs of foreign workers were not adequately met. The majority of foreign workers thus attained a legal stay permit by benefiting from “amnesty” laws to redress situations of stay which started and continued in illegal conditions. Many of those who entered Italy following prior arrangement with an employer, actually entered the country illegally first to find work, and then, having found an employer prepared to go through the legal procedure, returned to their home country and came back.
An estimate of the percentage today of the total of immigrants with regular stay permits for work who first entered to Italy illegally before achieving legal status would be very high.
The entry into force of the new law on immigration last year introduced a new method of entry: entry “for insertion in the labour market” of worker for whom someone legally in Italy (Italian or foreign citizens, companies or association) guarantees maintenance for a period of one year to search for a job. This form of entry has been welcomed, and the ceiling fixed by the Government (in fact very low, 15,000 for the year 2000) was reached in only a few weeks. That is to say that, due to the large number of persons illegally present, and the low figures foreseen in the initial introduction of this measure, the majority of the quota was used by foreign workers already present in Italy, again following repatriation which was not intercepted with controls. The quota should be renewed for 2001, given that – at least according to the draft of the decree presentation by Government to Parliament – the ceiling has not been raised in the meantime, and the number of illegal persons in Italy has probably grown over the last 12 months (despite a significant increase in border controls). The measure of “loan of guarantee”, if not rendered useless by a very low ceiling figure, could certainly create for the future a valid means of entry and one which provides for a certain percentage of those who hope come to work in Italy. However these measures are still in the experimental stage.
It is necessary therefore to widen the scope of workable measures, to avoid that a large section of the migrant population be “obliged” to follow illegal methods in order to gain legal status.
The Italian legislation does actually offer another measure which could respond to this problem. It is foreseen that, where the ceiling fixed for sponsored entries is not reached in a given time (two months) entries can be authorized for workers from non EU countries who are able to guarantee themselves their own maintenance in the year they are searching for work. To this end, the law foresees that the worker must be registered in the “booking lists” held by Italian diplomatic representations in emigration countries, and must show that they have a sum of money of approx. half the annual sum of social security (approx. 2,500 euro).
The establishment of very limited ceilings for sponsored entries, and especially the lack of the booking lists in Italian consulates and embassies, blocked the use of this mechanism in the year 2000 – and the situation will probably be the same in the year 2001. It is hoped however that it will soon be possible to test this method in Italy, and that the same means may be considered in the European context. This means of entry would correspond, in fact, more than any other to the methods effectively adopted by those who enter and stay illegally in Italy, but it avoids many of the negative aspects ( slipping round the laws on immigration and work, recourse to traffickers, enforced hiding and risk of involvement with criminals), which make illegal immigration a social problem.
The essential elements for the operation of a means of self-sponsored entry to search for work are therefore:
a) institution of an accessible booking list (also by post or computer, if this helps avoid useless bureaucracy), based, rather than on professional qualifications, on “first come first served” (the object being to give opportunity also to unqualified immigrants who would otherwise be forced to follow illegal channels).
b) the definition of a financial requirement which is not too restrictive and in any case such as to render legal entry more advantageous for the migrant than illegal entry through traffickers.
c) the definition of annual quotas which are not excessively low (the prospective migrant must be able to see his application progressing with reasonable speed; if progress is too slow and means a wait of many years before legal entry is possible, the worker will again be tempted to try illegal means) but in any case quotas should be linked to measures which guarantee effectively a correct social integration.
d) Efficient orientation of the migrant in the difficult phase of searching for work.
If it is decided not to follow, in the EC, the method currently being tried in Italy of defining entry quotas, and if it is decided instead to leave more space to market dynamics (even with adequate attention to social tensions which could arise due to lack of sufficient reception structures), a somewhat modified mechanism for selfsponsored entry to search for work could be created.
The mechanism in question could consist of entry for short stay (say 6 months) conditional on fulfilment of the following criteria:
a) availability of means of subsistence, proportional to the amount of social security and the length of stay (this requirement could be more easily demonstrated due to the shorter length of stay, than that described in the preceding paragraph).
b) Depositing on entry a travel document for eventual repatriation or the sum of money necessary to obtain it.
c) Taking of fingerprints.
It would then not be necessary to have a numerical ceiling.
The citizen of a third country thus admitted would be authorized to search for dependant work, and also to carry out occasional autonomous work (it would mean, in other words, a form of “tourism for work”).
The authorization of stay could be, on request, extended for a similar period, providing possession of corrisponding means could be demonstrated (sign of a certain integration in the economic field). It could also – and this is the relevant point – be changed into an authorization for a longer period (similar to that granted to those who today make legal entry for subordinate or autonomous work) where there is a job available, or after a sufficient number of extentions of the original authorization, which demonstrate adequate integration(whether it be by autonomous or occasional means).
The deposition of fingerprints and travel document would enable immediate identification and eventual repatriation of the foreigner who, avoiding the regulations for short stay, would be subject to subsequent controls.
A mechanism of this kind, even though it could not be considered complete liberalization of migratory movements, would provide a legal framework to keep track in a realistic way of what is happening today in immigration – often disregarding formally restrictive regulations. The states would retain the possibility of avoiding intolerable tensions linked to eccessively precarious means of integration, whilst it would certainly stop trafficking organizations taking advantage of immigrants wanting to make a better life for themselves.
Comunità di S. Egidio
CSER (Scalabrinianan Fathers)
Federazione delle Chiese Evangeliche in Italia (FCEI)
Fondazione Migrantes della CEI
Jesuit Refugee Service
UCSEI (Ufficio Centrale Studenti Esteri in Italia)
Segreteria di coordinamento:
Via Firenze 38 - 00184 Roma - tel. 06 48905101 - fax 06 48916959