A protest in Naples for the regularization of undocumented migrants in May 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Ciro Fusco
A protest in Naples for the regularization of undocumented migrants in May 2020 | Photo: ANSA/Ciro Fusco

Only about a third of all undocumented migrants who applied for stay permits under a decree passed in May 2020 have received their papers thus far, according to a group of NGOs calling for faster and easier regularizations.

A number of prominent Italian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) launched a campaign to 'save the amnesty' (Salviamo la sanatoria) on Thursday (November 25) to call for the faster regularization of undocumented migrants in Italy.

Among them are the Italian Radicals party, the organization for cultural association and social promotion ARCI, the Jesuit refugee service Astalli Center, the national coordination of hosting communities CNCA, the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy FCEI and the Christian Associations of Italian Workers ACLI.

More than 200,000 migrants applied for regularization

"We follow with great attention the implementation of the extraordinary amnesty planned by the government in May 2020 due to concerns in particular over the long delays to process the 230,000 applications ...and the situation of uncertainty that such delays are causing", the organizations said.

In mid-2020, legislation went into effect that allowed foreigners working in certain sectors to apply for temporary legal residency in Italy.

According to the NGOs, only about one-third of applications had been finalized by the end of October of this year by prefectures and only 38,000 stay permits had been released by central police stations. "The situation remained critical in some large cities: In Milan, out of the 25,900 requests that were received, only 2,551 stay permits were released. In Rome, out of 17,371 applications, only 1,242," they said.

Migrants especially affected by unemployment

The situation is extremely serious considering that the amnesty was approved to help Italy deal with a situation of emergency caused by the COVID crisis, organizers said.

They quoted a recent report released by the Moressa Foundation, which found that out of 456,000 jobs lost in Italy in 2020 due to the COVID emergency, a total of 35% has been held by foreign citizens.

The campaign's organizers reportedly interviewed workers who applied for the amnesty, employees, personnel of prefectures, and operators offering legal assistance. They found that many who applied for the regularization faced massive bureaucratic hurdles.

Workers waiting for an amnesty can't leave Italy

"One of the things that most weighed on those who were waiting to obtain their documents...was a de facto ban on leaving Italy: workers waiting for an amnesty, although they had a regular position while their application was being processed, couldn't return to their home country until the procedure was completed," the organozations said. They said that some parents hadn't seen their children for two years due to the long wait; and some migrants had been unable to attend funerals of deceased relatives.

The NGOs warned that the situation could get worse in 2022 due to a lack of personnel. They said that some small progress has been made in processing applications because additional personnel had been hired by prefectures, but that their short-term contracts were set to expire on December 31.

Changes to 'save the amnesty'

The organizations called on the government to introduce measures to tackle problems with regularization procedures and to ensure that the process does not stall further.

The NGOs said that thez had proposed changes to the budget law, which would be introduced to the parliament Senators from different left/leaning parliamentary groups, including Emma Bonino (Italian Radicals), Loredana De Petris (Italian Left), Vasco Errani (Article One), and Riccardo Nencini (Italian Socialists).

Among those measures: An authorization for the necessary resources to prolong, at least until 2022, the contracts of temporary workers already hired to help process applications.

And they want to ensure that migrants regularization can become permanent and unconnected to a specific timeframe and specific sectors. (The current decree applies only to certain work sectors and people who's stay permit lapsed within a specific time frame.) If the changes were to be passed, workers wishing to apply for regularization would only need to be currently employed and be present in Italy for at least 180 days.


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