An operation against the gangmaster system in the Italian province of Foggia | Photo: ANSA/Carabinieri
An operation against the gangmaster system in the Italian province of Foggia | Photo: ANSA/Carabinieri

Since a new decree went into effect in Italy this summer, 220,000 migrants have applied to get temporary papers, according to Deputy Interior Minister Matteo Mauri. Meanwhile, he also said that the exploitation of undocumented farmworkers in the Foggia region had to be stopped.

Deputy minister Mauri announced the numbers on October 13 after a meeting at the prefecture of Foggia in the region of Puglia.

"207,000 people applied for the regularization, in addition to 13,000 who asked for a permit to look for a job, so we are talking about 220,000 people," Mauri said. "In the report we drafted before the start of the regularization, we wrote on a piece of paper that we would probably regularize 220,000 people, which is exactly what happened."

Permit extension for migrant workers

The decree that allowed these people to apply for temporary papers came into force on June 1: Foreigners who had a stay permit that expired after October 31, 2019 could apply for a new six-month-long permit. The decree applied to migrant workers employed in specific sectors, including agriculture and domestic work, as well as unemployed migrants who previously worked in these sectors.

"More legality, more regularity and as a consequence more benefits for all, because producing conditions for high-quality integration is in everybody's interest," deputy minister Mauri said.

He said his administration was actively fighting the exploitation of undocumented migrants in agriculture in the Foggia region. "We have met with law enforcement, the prefecture, unions and associations. Unfortunately, we are not dealing with an emergency but with a problem that has existed for a very long time," he said.

Exploitation of farmworkers

The Foggia region is known for makeshift migrant camps where gangmasters look for workers. Living conditions in these shanty towns are poor. This summer, several inhabitants caught COVID-19, and one migrant died in a fire.

Mauri said that "a different, dignified living solution must be found" for migrant workers, and that ending exploitative work situations was key to this.

"At the center of everything there is always the problem of exploitation, because if a person is not paid for what he or she does but is underpaid and in some cases enslaved, these situations become inevitable," he said.


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