Immigration in Italy
Less foreign residents, fewer landings, more undocumented migrants. A life between exclusion and marginality, this is the picture that emerges from the 2020 Immigration Statistical Dossier.
The report clarifies several matters: the landings emergency no longer exists, even if the issue of arrivals remains at the center of the political debate; many foreign citizens live in precarious conditions, further aggravated by the pandemic; migration policy must change its direction.
In 2019 just over 11,000 people arrived. In 2020 the numbers are growing, although a long way from the 2015-2017 period, which saw the arrival in Italy of over 600,000 people. The drop in arrivals was consequently followed by a 34% drop in asylum applications.
According to ISTAT data, at the end of 2019, the foreigners present in the territory are in total 5,306,500 (just 47,100 more compared to the beginning of the year: +0.9%), corresponding to 8.8% of the entire population residing in Italy.
A decreasing figure compared to previous years are the non-EU foreigners legally residing in Italy, which are 3,615,000. More than 60% of them have been living in Italy for more than ten years. This decrease was most likely followed by an increase in undocumented migrants - estimated at 562,000 at the end of 2018. A result of the security decrees that abolished international protection and emptied the reception centers. The increase consists of about 120,000-14000 units, although it could be adjusted downwards in light of the regularization program adopted by the government, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Foreigners tend to be more present in certain work sectors, characterized by low paid condition, precarious, heavy (physically exhausting?), dangerous and socially penalizing work. About 2 out of 3 foreigners perform unskilled jobs or are laborers (63.6%, against only 29.6% of Italians), while only 8% have a qualified job. Foreigners account for almost one fifth of construction, agriculture and hotel-restaurant workers, and 68.8% of domestic and personal care services, where 40.6% of foreign women are employed. There are poor prospects for professional growth, especially for the younger generation which, at least according to current trends, will be led to reproduce the employment patterns of the previous generation.
In 2018-2019, foreign students represented 10% of the school population. Two out of three of these students were born in Italy, however, the data show very critical situations. Foreign students reach with difficulty high levels of education and are more likely to drop out of school than their Italian counterparts. In the transition from middle school to high school, foreign students are more inclined to choose a technical or professional education, 70.1% compared to lyceum. The gap between students with a migrant background and native students could increase due to the closure of schools, which has had a greater impact on students with a migrant background as they live in families for which both the incidence of poverty and the intensity of poverty are higher.
In addition, the socio-economic status of migrants hinders the enjoyment of other rights, these include access to basic services such as legal assistance, health care, housing and education.
Once again, it strikes, as the public and media attention, but also all the criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of the policies adopted are still almost exclusively focused on the issue of landings, leaving limited space to the issue of social inclusion of foreign citizens. As the Caritas Report on Immigration points out, for many years now, analyses and research on the integration of foreign citizens have given us an unsatisfactory picture, which suffers from insufficient integration policies, conditioned by a short-sighted and emergency approach.
Finally, we can say that the dossier reflects a situation with a lot of shadows and few lights. The greatest concern is given by the continuing difficulty of the processes of social inclusion of migrants, affected by insufficient integration policies and conditioned by a short-sighted approach that does not have the courage to invest in a crucial area for the country such as the integration of migrants, which is often perceived only as a cost.
To change this, it is necessary that the government does not adopt an emergency approach to the issue of immigration but decides to have a more organic and adherent approach to the reality of the country. The forthcoming launch of the new Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion for 2021 - 2024, of the European Commission, is a significant opportunity for Italy to remember how important it is to develop a coordinated integration policy, ensuring that all people arriving and residing in the EU have the opportunity to build a decent life and actively participate in society.
An objective that is recalled also today on the Day of Tolerance. In the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance, it is recalled that "measures must be taken to ensure equality in the dignity and rights of individuals and groups, where necessary. In this regard, special attention should be paid to vulnerable groups who are socially or economically disadvantaged, so as to guarantee them the protection of the laws and social measures in force, in particular with regard to housing, employment and health, respect the authenticity of their culture and values and facilitate their advancement and social and professional integration, in particular through education".
All this because tolerance is not concession, condescension, or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an attitude.