Download MIPEX III Italy in Italian (pdf)



Italy remains a major new country of labour migration and asylum, despite cuts to work quotas and controversial ‘push-backs’ to Libya. Most permanent immigration is EU free movement and family reunion. An ageing Italy increasingly depends on caregivers; 295,000 applied for 2009’s regularisation. The last MIPEX found previous government’s integration policies to be the best among Europe’s major countries of immigration. Italy’s current government made statements recognising MIPEX as an assessment tool. By dropping 1 point overall on MIPEX III, Italy now lost that place to Spain, for its continued commitment to economic, family, and social integration, despite the recession. Italy’s new policies, especially the Security Law, made conditions in the country slightly less favourable for integration. Immigrants are presented as responsible for general social problems, with debatable statistics and without evaluations of policies’ impact on integration.

New family reunion and long-term residence conditions are out of touch with social realities. While EU law slightly improved Italian antidiscrimination laws, equality policies remain the weakest in Europe. Government is inactive on voting rights and citizenship reform, compared to other new immigration countries.

Timeline - What's Changed

0 2008
Family reunion eligibility
Decree limits reunion with elderly parents(-10) but courts expand definition of children (+10).
0 June 2008
Decree on anti-discrimination responds to European Commission infringement procedure.
0 July 2009
Access to nationality
Sarubbi-Granata citizenship bill would improve access to nationality, especially eligibility.
-4 July 2009
Family reunion
Security Law raises family reunion costs and housing requirement.
-3 July 2009
Long-term residence
Security Law restricts long-term residence through language/integration requirement.
-2 July 2009
Access to nationality
Security Law raises costs of naturalisation, restricts options for spouses.
0 January 2010
Protocol 101 “Linguistic Competences of Foreign Pupils” – migrant pupil quotas; initiatives on Italian language.

Key Findings

  • Favourable labour market mobility and family reunion, as in other new countries of labour migration. 
  • New long-term residence requirements may or may not encourage language learning and integration. 
  • Security Act lowers score on family reunion, longterm residence and access to nationality. 
  • Many new legal conditions are out of step with general societal realities. 
  • Anti-discrimination law slightly improves to meet EU standards. 
  • Equality body and policies weakest in Europe. 
  • Rome consultative bodies model for political participation. 
  • Voting rights still absent for non-EU residents. 
  • Educating migrant pupils is area of weakness for Italy, EU. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Italy allows legal non-EU workers and their families to integrate into the general economy, with all its strengths and weaknesses, while ignoring their specific situation in it. As in most new labour migration countries (CZ, PT, ES), nationals and legal migrant workers have equal access, support and rights. However the public service is losing out on the skills of non-EU residents, unlike in 21 of the 30 other countries. Moreover, the lack of targeted support in Italy means that the jobs non-EU residents do find may be below their qualifications or outside the legal labour market. Immigrants, especially women and youths, benefit from such support in established countries of immigration as well as PT.

  • Show Family Reunion

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    Conditions drop 17 points

    Like many Italians, non-EU residents find it as difficult to get housing and legal employment but they must meet disproportionately high income and accommodation requirements to reunite their families. Under the Security Act, they need accommodation meeting general health standards and judged ‘suitable’ by town officials. The law aims for 2 goals at once: preventing people living in squalor could also slow family reunions. Administrative fees jumped from 80 to 200 euros; 50% cover all costs of the procedure and 50% cover deportations of other immigrants.

    Non-EU families in Italy find new and slightly favourable laws, on paper, as in other new labour migration countries, but now less favourable conditions. If authorities respect procedures, families get secure residence and can work, study and participate in society. Courts recently clarified that parents can sponsor children in cases of joint custody. Accessing the procedure is the main obstacle, since many conditions do not reflect social realities (see box), While laws largely reflect definitions of the Italian family, government made it nearly impossible to sponsor parents, even with full financial support (possible in 9 others). Despite Italy’s dependence on immigrant carers, 120/2008 decree presents immigrants’ elderly parents as unwanted burdens on the welfare state. 

  • Show Education

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    A one-sided approach

    A 2010 protocol states that non-Italians cannot exceed 30% of a class. While aiming to improve teaching and integration, it omits standards to ensure the quality of Italian taught. Trainings are not required for teachers to teach Italian to non-native speakers or handle diverse classrooms. Italian pupils are not encouraged to open up to immigrant peers. Immigrant languages are absent from the curriculum, unlike in 22 countries. The current government provides less support to implement intercultural education and the Observatory for the Integration of Foreign pupils.

    Adapting education systems to diversity is challenging for Europe, especially for new immigration countries like Italy. Its education system has as many strengths as weaknesses. Migrant needs are targeted but generally as a ‘problem group’, while all students are not taught how to live together. As in most countries, migrants under age 18, whatever their status, access education and general support for disadvantaged pupils (however successful these measures are). Schools can use some targeted funding and teacher training on migrants’ needs. Newcomers risk being placed at the wrong level, with few measures to catch up. Besides civil society projects, the Italian education system is not actively supporting new opportunities and intercultural education (see box). 

  • Show Political Participation

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    When in Rome

    Rome’s 2 consultative bodies have the potential to become models for other bodies at local, regional and national levels in Italy and abroad. Non-EU nationals can run and elect Adjunct Counsellors, representing residents from Africa, Asia, America and Eastern Europe. They are part of the town council and make their own reports and recommendations, even if they cannot vote. Rome’s Consultative Body for Foreign Communities has 32 members, also freely elected without state intervention from the 30 largest communities.

    Italy offers more limited political opportunities to its non-EU residents than most established countries of immigration. They cannot vote in local elections like EU citizens can. Government has not shown political will to adapt the constitution (see also AT, DE, ES) or remove their opt-out from Council of Europe Convention 144. At least Rome mainstreams immigrants into local politics (see box). Other Italian immigrant consultative bodies do not encourage meaningful participation. Authorities interfere in the selection of representatives, rarely consult them and give them superficial roles. Italy respects most basic political liberties and provides some funding for immigrant associations. Still, outdated laws state that any newspaper they create must be owned by an Italian citizen. 

  • Show Long Term Residence

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    Promoting or preventing integration?

    The Security Act follows trends in imposing language and integration conditions for long-term residence. Scoring only 43, this requirement may create an integration obstacle (e.g. CY, GR) rather than an opportunity (e.g. CZ, PT). Goals may conflict; promoting language learning, but preventing ‘stable residence’ for those who cannot. Exemptions apply for language test (A2). However, all applicants may not have rights to free courses/tests at adult education centres (e.g. CZ, DK, RO). Implementing a complicated ‘pointsbased system’ (e.g. DK, UK) could further discourage or delay integration.

    Non-EU residents who can become long-term residents should be slightly secure in their status and treated equally like Italians in many areas of life, as required in EU law. Most European countries do not exclude so many categories of legal immigrants from longterm residence, with many others now opening to students (e.g. AT, BE, PT, ES). Those that Italy considers eligible do not face as many unfavourable conditions as for family reunion and naturalisation, such as the fee covering the procedure and deportations. Whether newcomers are encouraged to succeed as long-term residents will be determined by how government implements the Security Act’s new language and integration requirements (see box). 

  • Show Access to Nationality

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    Citizenship difficult for immigrants

    The 10-year residence requirement for most newcomers is the bare minimum tolerated by the Council of Europe Convention 166, which Italy signed but failed to ratify. Italy lets EU citizens apply 6 years earlier than non-EU residents, even if both meet the legal conditions. The Security Act restricted the traditionally liberal provisions for foreign residents who marry an Italian. The government assumes that legitimate couples will be able to wait 18 months longer, but that sham marriages will not.

    Born in Italy: no new approach to the new generation

    Italian-born children of migrants can only declare themselves Italian after 18 years with legal registration and uninterrupted residence. Authorities, trying to introduce some flexibility, cannot overcome inevitable administrative problems. Knowing no other country but Italy as their own, Italian-born students are removed from classes according to new 30% non-citizens’ quota (see education). Their residence is easily interrupted by spending too long with family abroad. PT (2006) and LU (2008) granted birthright citizenship to the third generation. GR (2010) and DE (1999) did so for the second.

    Immigrants and their Italian-born descendants are excluded from many areas of life because Italy has not yet reformed its citizenship laws, unlike other new countries of immigration. The country’s high score shows that, with reform of eligibility for nationality, the basics are there for secure and equal citizenship. Naturalised and Italianborn citizens can only lose their status under certain conditions if they do military or civil service for another state. As a country with a large diaspora, Italy during the 1990s opened to dual nationality, now accepted as in 17 other MIPEX countries.

    As Italy changed from a country of emigration to immigration, its citizenship policy fell behind European trends. Eligibility criteria are far more restrictive than nearly all major countries of immigration, as well as most of Western and Southern Europe. Nearly half the MIPEX countries recognise second or third generations as equal citizens (see box). Unlike in Italy, the first generation can apply for naturalisation after a shorter residence requirement of around 5 years in 8 established and reforming immigration countries. There is a clearer procedure in 10 (e.g. DE, NL, PT) that entitle applicants to citizenship once all the agreed legal conditions are met. Italy and ES are the only major immigration countries with such long and unequal residence requirements (see box).

    Italian politicians are often sidetracked from the reform that they have discussed for decades. The recent bipartisan Sarubbi-Granata bill would address these fundamental issues, while only raising Italy’s MIPEX score a few points. The first generation would have to pass slightly more demanding conditions and procedures, as for longterm residence. Its eligibility provisions, mirroring those in Western Europe and North America, would better facilitate social and political integration of newcomers and Italian-born children. These goals are similar to other reforming new countries of immigration (e.g. GR, LU, PT). Naturalisation after 5 years would recognise the common links and future of all residents in a changing society. Automatic jus soli at birth would fight social exclusion of future generations. 

  • Show Anti-discrimination

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    EU improvements

    Italy gave its residents full protection against discrimination following threats from the European Commission to take legal action. In order to tackle existing discrimination and continuously improve the law, the government responded to the points set out in the infringement proceeding 2005/2358 by implementing the Anti-Discrimination Law on 6 June 2008. Now more victims are protected from harassment and victimisation, while they do not have to shoulder the whole burden of proof throughout the legal proceedings.

    The weakest equality policies in Europe are undermining equal opportunities guaranteed in Italian law. Thanks to EU law (see box), victims of ethnic, racial, religious and nationality discrimination can use new concepts and slightly favourable mechanisms to enforce their rights in all areas of life. However, access to justice may be denied as equality policies score 35 points below European average. The State did create a diversity charter for business, similar to FR and DE, but has no positive duty to promote equality in its own actions. The Prime Minister controls the Office for Racial Discrimination, Europe’s 2nd weakest equality body (after ES). It cannot instigate or engage in proceedings, unlike in 13 countries.