Mass amnesty for illegal migrants in Italy has been a failure, interior ministry data shows

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Italy’s amnesty offering to the country’s estimated 600,000 illegal migrants in order to bolster the agricultural sector has been a major failure, according to data from the Italian Ministry of the Interior.

For days, the public waited for the first official Interior Ministry data to be published. As there was no press conference or a statement, for several hours, the eyes were turned to the website of the Interior Ministry, where the listed numbers showed the first snapshot of the progress made in the regularization of undocumented foreign workers, which started two weeks ago.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigration League party, had earlier opposed the plan that would grant migrants work and residency permits for a minimum of six months with the ability to renew the permits indefinitely.

From June 1 until 1 p.m. on Monday, 32,000 applications for work permits were submitted in total. Out of this number, 23,950 had been already completed and 7,762 were in progress, Il Giornale reported.

However, a closer look at the data reveals that most of the applications do not concern the agricultural sector as the government expected when approving the decree.

“Domestic work and personal assistance represent 91 percent of the applications already completed (21,695), with 76 percent of them in progress (5,906),” states the data of the interior ministry. Furthermore, such numbers are not even coming close to the number expected by the government, as it presumed that about 220,000 migrants would complete applications. 

It is a clear sign that mainly foreign workers employed in house service and personal care will benefit from the amnesty, but laborers working in the agricultural sector represent only a small portion of applicants. Italy’s left-wing government first argued that 80,000 migrants would be needed to work on farms in justifying the mass amnesty.

“In the distribution of applications by regions, Lombardy is in first place in terms of submitted applications for domestic work and personal assistance and Campania for the agriculture,” reads the report.

The data regarding the distribution of applications by country of origin of the worker are also interesting as Morocco, Egypt, and Bangladesh are at the top for domestic work and personal assistance. India, Albania, and Morocco are then on the top of the list for agriculture.

“Out of 23,950 employers who have completed the application for regularization, 17,294 are Italian (72% of the total),” reports the final part of the document.

The next update of the document is expected to be published in two weeks.

The amnesty measure was approved as the result of the coronavirus pandemic making workers leave the Italian countryside due to the national emergency as the vast majority of workers, mostly from Eastern Europe, preferred to return to their homeland to spend this time with their family.

But, so far, the data show that the urgency in which Italian Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova insisted on introducing the measure was unfounded. She originally threatened to resign from her position if migrants were not given amnesty and cried tears of joy when the measure was passed. She also argued that the law was needed in order to supply Italy’s farm sector with legal migrant workers due to the coronavirus crisis.

“At the national level, numbers in agriculture are really low, we are talking about a hundred of applications in the whole Italy,” Romano Magrini pointed out on June 4.

Up until now, the low number of applicants, especially for agricultural work, are adding ammunition to critics of the amnesty plan. As a result, even some members of the Democratic Party, led by Laura Boldrini, have announced their intention to present some amendments to the regularization of foreign workers when discussing the law in the Chamber of Deputies.

The League party also plans to introduce amendments to the amnesty to stop the law from going into full effect.

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