Opinion: Immigration as a resource: the rules and procedures that are needed today

Originally posted in Italian news: Immigration as a resource: the rules and procedures that are needed today (avvenire.it)

by Maurizio Ambrosini, University of Milan, FAiR consortium partner

Saturday, June 1, 2024

In the gloomy landscape of European immigration policies in recent times, a glimmer of light comes from the albeit cautious reopening towards immigration for work. Little is said about it, in times of elections and under the weight of anti-refugee campaigns, but the change in perspective is substantial. No longer job thieves and fearsome competitors of national workers, but an essential aid both for the economy and for the needs of families. Contributing to this deficit is the drying up of the source of cheap labour represented by the Eastern European countries, which are members of the EU.

In Italy, too, business organizations, which for too long have been sidelined and silent on the subject of migration policies, have begun to demand more workers. For his part, just yesterday in his Final Considerations, the Governor of the Bank of Italy, Fabio Panetta, spoke of support for employment deriving from a flow of legal immigrants, to be managed “in coordination with other European countries” and “by strengthening integration measures”. In this new climate, first the Draghi government, then the Meloni government have significantly increased authorized entries: as many as 452,000 in the three-year period 2023-2025, albeit mostly for seasonal work.

However, even positive choices need legs to walk. There is a glaring gap between the political will to open up and the functioning of the bureaucratic machine in charge of managing the procedures envisaged, despite the corrections introduced on this front as well, involving employers’ associations.

The “I was a foreigner” campaign, which Avvenire reported on yesterday, presented merciless data: in 2023, applications submitted by employers were six times higher than the number of new entries expected (462,422 compared to 74,105 available places). In the maze of the procedure (acceptance of the application, issuance of the clearance, finalization with the conclusion of the contract), other applications are lost, so that only 17,435 people in 2023 obtained the coveted visa. Just 23.5%. If the problem arises from a supervening unwillingness of the employer to proceed with the recruitment, the law provides for a safeguard clause: the granting of a residence permit for pending employment. It is a pity, however, that only 84 of these permits were issued in 2023, even fewer than in 2022 (146).

It is therefore necessary to get to grips not only with the procedures, but also with the very structure of the legislation that dates back to the Bossi-Fini law of more than twenty years ago. It has been reformed by rulings on many points, but not on this one.

First of all, it is the so-called click-day that causes clogging and overloading of applications: on a fixed date, employers must submit the application, today with a preferential channel if they go through a trade association, but always with the risk of being excluded due to random factors such as a malfunction of the internet or a poor connection speed.

A system that is open all year round would be better. The very concept of annual quotas should be softened and reshaped according to the needs of the labour market, the estimation of which a priori is always a questionable exercise. Since entry quotas, as various studies have found, have so far largely served to regularize workers who have already entered and been hired informally, it would be as well to provide a dedicated channel to resolve these cases, separating them from the actual new entries. Employers should be given more freedom to hire from abroad, but also more responsibility.

Provision should be made for a contribution to ensure either the return to home or the relocation of the worker to another job, in the event of termination of the relationship. In this sense, a reintroduction of the institution of the sponsor would also help: those who have a side here, represented by relatives, can find guidance, support for integration, help in difficulties. It should be remembered once again that people come along with their arms.

Disclaimer: Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Executive Agency (REA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them. Grant Agreement 101094828.

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