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European Task Force on Irregular Migrations - Country Report: Italy Paris : Ifri, 2011, 36 p. (Coll. Les études Ifri)

In order to understand the present configuration of immigration policies in Italy, it is necessary to follow a path of double logic at every step of the analysis. On one side, the study will identify consistent trends in the country’s “immigration history” that continue to shape the main features of the reality of immigration today (see §§ 2.1 and 2.2). On the other side, the study will focus on major changes in the regulation of immigration and the policies addressing undocumented migrants that occurred in more recent times (see § 2.3.).

ETFIM Country Report: Italy

Of course, the evolution of the overall situation concerning migration in Italy is highly dependent upon national historical and political situations, seeing as it is the central authority that is responsible for establishing the guidelines upon which immigration policy is built. However, it is at the local level that these guidelines must be implemented, and it is local authorities that are called to deal with undocumented migrants in the territories they administrate. However, local authorities cannot really intervene in setting the rules concerning the legal admission of third-country nationals and the rights to which (even) undocumented migrants are entitled. The action of local powers in the field of housing, schooling, health services etc. can therefore have a big impact on migrants‟ everyday lives. Moreover, since immigration has become one of the most important issues in the political agenda of European States, all types of governments wanted to leave their own mark in the field. Immigration is discussed either in terms of good or bad, opportunity or threat, reception or expulsion. Even if, in practice, the guidelines of national policies had remained more or less the same since the nineties, the subsequent legislative reforms and the public discourse on this matter have been shaped in many different ways by these opposite political sides. Even in this sense, local authorities can make the difference either by following the “mainstream” established at the central level, or by opposing it. Local authorities deal with issues people experience in everyday life. They can concentrate on reception and integration policies or on “command and control” measures, and at the same time influence the public opinion much more effectively than the national authority.

That is why in the following paragraphs, after offering an overview of the evolution of national immigration policies and the causes of irregularity, the study will concentrate on the interplay between the different policy levels, and particularly on the scope of action that local powers have in dealing with undocumented migrants while performing their ordinary administrative functions. This point of view can reveal itself as a very useful tool in the analysis of public policies concerning undocumented migration in which the local perspective has often been neglected. In this respect, it shall be taken into consideration as well that, since 2001, Italy has undergone important changes in the territorial distribution of power in accordance with the subsidiarity principle1. Even if this decentralization process did not affect the core of immigration policy (see § 3.1), it still provided local authorities with essential competencies in the access to basic social rights, along with enhancing the role of the local level in the overall administrative policy of the State. Since then, the local perspective has become a strategic point of view in the analysis of public policies in Italy, as it should in immigration issues as well.


European Task Force on Irregular Migrations - Country Report: Italy
Italian Immigration Policy migrants Politics Undocumented Immigrants Italy