A demonstration against the security decree in piazza Verdi in front of the Massimo theater, Palermo | Photo: ANSA/IGOR PETYX
A demonstration against the security decree in piazza Verdi in front of the Massimo theater, Palermo | Photo: ANSA/IGOR PETYX

The introduction of the "Salvini decree" has led to a strong incease in the number of undocumented migrants in Italy, according to a new study. That's mostly because it's become harder for asylum seekers to get a stay permit.

The first decree on security and immigration (also known as the "Salvini decree") was approved by the parliament last year. The decree has led to an increase in the number of irregular immigrants in Italy, according to a newly released study. The study was carried out by the Openpolis foundation and NGO ActionAid. The report was published on November 4, one year after the measure was passed. 

There are now an estimated 680,000 undocumented migrants, according to the report.  

Harder to get asylum

Why did the number of undocumented migrants increase? According to the study, it's because...
... the legislation substantially abolished international protection status
... the decree increased the number of asylum application rejections

The authors of the study criticized the decree, saying that it restored the ''disastrous practice'' of concentrating asylum seekers in large holding centers instead of distributing them across Italy. 

The measure substantially abolished humanitarian protection. This led to an increase in the number of rejected asylum requests (an estimated 80% in 2019 compared to 67% in 2018). 

The residence permit for humanitarian reasons was scrapped and replaced by 'special permits', which can be granted to, among others, victims of serious exploitation and people needing medical treatment. 

80,000 asylum applications rejected in 2019 

According to the report, an estimated 80,000 people will be denied asylum in 2019. These people will be out of the system and the majority will "join the population of irregular [migrants]," the study said. 

The number of irregular immigrants in Italy has been consistently rising since 2013. This is because it's very difficult to enter the country legally for work reasons, the study found. 

Openpolis and ActionAid estimated that the number of irregular migrants in the country will total about 680,000 people in 2019 and will top 750,000 in January 2021. For comparison: An estimated 491,000 irregular immigrants resided in Italy in 2017. 

'Population will remain in Italy without documents' 

Under the decree, applicants who have been denied asylum should be sent to repatriation centers (CPR) and then deported to their home countries. However, the report noted, CPRs can currently only accommodate 1,085 people. On average, no more than 5,6000 repatriations are carried out annually, with a slight decrease in repatriations registered in 2019. 

At the current rate, it would take over a century and more than 3.5 billion euros (5,800 euro per repatriation) to deport every irregular migrant in Italy, the study found - and that's only if there are zero migrant arrivals  from now on. 

Therefore, "the great majority of this population will remain in Italy without documents" and "without the possibility of finding a home or job unless it is illegal," the study concluded. 
 

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