Rome – Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor together with Italian association A Buon Diritto Onlus held a training workshop entitled “Immigration Law in Italy: Rules and Shortcomings” for the students of Loyola University Chicago’s John Felice Rome Center, on Thursday.

A Buon Diritto Onlus provides legal counselling for migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented people in Rome, Italy.

As part of its agenda to raise awareness of human rights in the MENA region and Europe, Euro-Med Monitor is conducting a series of lectures in various universities across the region to raise awareness on migrants and refugees’ rights as well as the rights of other target groups. This particular lecture focused on the rules of immigration law in Italy, a frontline European state, calling attention to its major flaws and shortcomings, which severely affect the lives of migrants and refugees. 

   Even when legal routes are blocked, migration flows are not—they just become less safe   

Michela Pugliese, Migration and Asylum Researcher

The current Italian legal system not only impacts individuals’ chances of reaching Italy and the EU safely in the first place, but also their everyday realities upon successful arrival.

Starting with the cornerstone of the Italian immigration system, the Consolidated Immigration Act of 1998 (“Testo unico sull’immigrazione” in Italian), the workshop focused on Article 19, which enshrines the non-refoulement principle common to international human rights, refugee, humanitarian, and customary law. The principle protects all third-country nationals from expulsion and rejection, recognising the risk of persecution they face in their country of origin or habitual residence.

This information was useful in terms of reminding lecture attendees that asylum seekers, minors, pregnant or recently pregnant women, and people with serious psychophysical conditions, among other categories of vulnerable people arriving at Italy’s borders, should never be rejected according to the law.

The lecturer then described the limited and inadequate options available to migrants to enter Italy regularly, which is mainly through the annual Flows Decree for non-EU workers, and the obstacles they face to regularise their situation once in Italy.

Euro-Med Monitor’s Migration and Asylum Researcher, Michela Pugliese, explained that there is an absolute lack of legal routes of entry for migrants and refugees from the “Global South”, as it is very difficult—when not impossible—for them to get a regular visa to enter Italy or other European countries safely and then obtain a residence permit.

“Even when legal routes are blocked, migration flows are not—they just become less safe”, said Pugliese. “We well know that people manage to reach the Italian southern coasts or northern borders somehow, paying exorbitant prices to risk their lives and physical integrity during the whole desperate journey, and often spending months or years in Italy without valid documents.

As a consequence of this broken and blind system they are forced to work illegally, often in unbearable conditions, to support themselves and their families in complete invisibility”, added Pugliese, “without the chance to regularise their situation, or report their exploitation”.

The lecture’s aim was to show how the Italian asylum and immigration framework is characterised by disorganised, rigid, and incoherent measures, which are inspired more by blind policies focused on security and control than structural, up-to-date, and coordinated solutions designed to favour the integration and protect the rights of third-country nationals already residing and working in Italy.

A workshop portion of the lecture included several stories and case-studies from the legal desk of A Buon Diritto Onlus to better illustrate the gap between law and reality to university students.

The significance of holding a valid residence permit (or not) to real people living their everyday lives is immense, and cannot be understated. Therefore, to enrich the lecture with migrants’ own perspectives, zeroing in on individuals’ fundamental rights and needs through the sharing of particular narratives was key.