A moment during a lunch called 'the meet-up lunch' for migrants and refugees, organized by the Caritas refectory in Rome | Photo: Angelo Carconi / Archive ANSA
A moment during a lunch called 'the meet-up lunch' for migrants and refugees, organized by the Caritas refectory in Rome | Photo: Angelo Carconi / Archive ANSA

The Presidency of the Italian Catholic charity Caritas is calling for a serious reflection on policies to fight poverty and to manage migration following the approval of the "Labor Decree" in Italy.

The presiding board of Italian Caritas met recently for several days in the Italian capital Rome. The Italian Presidency of the Catholic charity expressed concern over two issues affecting the most vulnerable in society, including migrants.

On May 1, the Italian government approved its new "Labor Decree," designed to reform work and welfare for the most vulnerable in society. This has prompted Caritas to call for the government and civil society organizations to take on a shared responsibility to try and improve the situation and fight poverty and manage migration. Caritas is advocating for structural intervention.

New checks to be introduced

In the decree, the government has announced it will eliminate, from January 2024, one of the welfare benefits currently provided by Italian society, the universal basic income or (Reddito di cittadinanza). To replace this, they are introducing two other welfare measures, a so-called Inclusion Check (Assegno per l'inclusione) and the Activation Instrument (Strumento di attivazione). This second measure is designed to get people back into the work place who have been excluded.

On Wednesday (May 3), Caritas issued a press release asking the government to revise its proposals and talk to Caritas, which has long experience of working with the poorest in society. Caritas reiterated the fact that any measure aimed at fighting poverty must ensure that any person who falls into this situation will have a dignified life during the time the condition persists.

The charity noted that Inclusion Checks only cover specific categories of people in poverty and the Activation Instrument did not appear to them to offer recipients a higher probability of finding employment. "Furthermore, the support coming locally is still too discretional and lacking." Caritas said that people's inclusion in society was a process that had to have its roots in local structures and could not be fixed by a top-down approach.

Effective policies

For the policies to be effective, "the poverty-fighting measures require intervention to reduce precarious labor situations and what is known as the phenomenon of the 'working poor'. The Decree instead relies on strategies to reduce taxes that, albeit laudable, cannot be considered a policy for remuneration or to fight poverty. Furthermore, the Decree foresees an increase in the duration of fixed-term contracts and an increase in the use of vouchers".

When it comes to migration, Italian Caritas suggests that the government stop seeing it in terms of an emergency and start to look for structural solutions. "Joint actions at the European level are what is urgently needed," stated the organization. Caritas called for more legal pathways to allow those wanting to come to Europe safely, without risking their lives.

In Italy, Diocesan structures are involved in sheltering operations for migrants and are increasingly called upon to face emergency situations. While the number of migrant arrivals increases, it is essential to prioritize a better distribution of shelters, making small shelters a priority to ensure that the quality standards are high, and to achieve a productive integration of the people into the social fabric of Italian society.

The issue of unaccompanied minors continues to create strong concern at Caritas: "It is necessary to identify clear instruments that will support family reunification, through protected routes and regulation to avoid illicit networks that profit from human trafficking", added the Caritas Presidency.


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