«An arbitrary, morally unacceptable framework» is the unapologetic summing up from Gianfranco Schiavone, Vice-President of the Association of Legal Studies on Immigration (Asgi), who in recent days has been working on the proposed amendments to the clause to regularise migrants which was included in the recent Decreto Rilancio (Economic Recovery Bill), a meticulous job done in conjunction with some of the lawyers and experts in law and work of Grei250.
As we have already told you, our association Nuove Radici has joined a virtual call which was launched less than a month ago by Ugo Melchionda, the OECD’s Italian correspondent for the International Migration Outlook, to researchers, journalists, legal experts, entrepreneurs, members of the Third Sector and university fellows. This diverse range of people met a few weeks ago to analyze the proposal for regularisation that the government was discussing at the request of the Minister of Agriculture, Teresa Bellanova.
Autonomous Reflection Group on Regulation and Inclusion (Grei250 or Group of 250), is about to present a list of crucial amendments to the Recovery Bill, issued by the government on 19 May, which includes a policy for the regularisation of irregular migrants present in Italy.
After some passionate work, the large discussion group has highlighted that there are many critical points, but among these the most important of all is the subject of the sectors left out of the bill, which range from construction to large-scale distribution and from craftsmen to catering. In addition, only people whose residence permit has expired before 31 October 2019 will be able to access the temporary residence permit – which lasts six months.
Too many missteps, at a delicate time. While Italy is dealing with the aftermath of a pandemic, threatened by global uncertainty and exhausted by internal disagreements, the issue is not mere speculation, as Schiavone points out: «It is a signal that, now more than ever, it is necessary to talk about regularisation. On one side of the government, there is no longer a group geared towards an agenda of hatred, resentment and xenophobia – a mindset that has led to the disasters of recent years».
We have not seen a turnaround yet. And so yes, it is urgent not only to take action to heal the mistakes of the last two years, but also to prevent new measures from being grafted onto a system that produces only irregularities and distortions.
The premise is clear, i Decreti Sicurezza (Security Bills) are a regulatory framework that is not helping at this time. «We should bear in mind that the procedure under discussion hypothetically affects half a million people. It is far-reaching and goes well beyond Salvini’s decrees. This is the sign of an unreasonable regulatory framework regarding immigration, which has not been working since well before the 2018 decrees», Schiavone explains. In other words, the regulatory situation in Italy, regarding residence permits, is so cumbersome that it creates a limbo of uncertainty, irregularities and insecurity. A subject that, in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, not only becomes obvious but also urgent: «The need to propose amendments arises from the fact that the legislation is flawed and ends up producing a distorted effect. Just think of all the categories that are admitted or excluded from regularisation, the logic of which is basically twisted: consider some categories and exclude others, according to a cumbersome system. The first purpose of the amendments we propose is therefore to try to make the legislation more appropriate and more open, in its categories».
The argument of which sectors are covered by the legislation is at the heart of the battle of Grei250: you can be for or against regularisation, but once the decision to regulate is taken, the government should at least explain why one sector was chosen and not another: agriculture yes but catering no, housekeeping yes but construction no.
Do you need manpower to support a quarantine and pandemic-undermined system? Schiavone disagrees: «We are not talking about the sectors with the highest rate of illegal labour, because catering and construction have a very high proportion of irregular migrant work».The resulting vision is even more worrying than the lack of clarity itself: «The message you give is culturally violent, the clear impression is that the choices that affect immigration are linked to discretion, they are arbitrary. That immigrants are just a living commodity. Are they just manpower or people who should be granted rights? All of this should at least seem unethical to us».
That this is the only way to talk about immigration, by discussing it in terms of pure political usefulness, is not just a moral problem. Especially if this perspective is attached to an outdated and dysfunctional regulatory system, there can be only one result: new irregularities. «The way things are now makes it clear that we need legislation based on rational principles as soon as possible and, given the current situation, it’s a matter of public health: it is evident in the preamble of the proposal for regularisation. This period of epidemic is mentioned, to ensure epidemiological control, but then there is no link in the text, it is a principle that is announced but it is not taken any further». Yet today, as never before, the widest possible regularisation would be beneficial – which is the basic assumption of the Grei250 group – regularisation in this particular year should have been broad, extended to all relevant people.
Paradoxes, discriminations and the risk of scams
Another key point is therefore to broaden the target of beneficiaries by reducing not only unreasonable paradoxes and discrimination, but also irregularities, such as the trade of documents and permits: «The paradox is that this situation is bound to create further distortions», stresses Schiavone.
The construction worker might try to work as a housekeeper for a short time, perhaps buying the contract, and then return to what he did before.
There is exactly a week to go before the debut of what, for all intents and purposes, is a limited amnesty to only two macro-categories, and Grei250 Group’s race will end in the next few hours: «The recipients of our proposals are the parliamentarians but also the government. We are not interested in any parliamentary bargaining for amendments, it’s enough not to have to witness the ugly scene of having reasonable and necessary proposals rejected».
Otherwise, Schiavone comments, the issue will not be limited to inadequate regularisation: «We will not cover the needs of the market, standards of justice and of health and safety will not be safeguarded. In short, we will achieve an outcome which, politically speaking, no one will be able to claim with an ounce of pride».
Translated by Adam Clark