The Italian parliament has just passed a controversial law to crack down on irregular immigration.
Known as the Cutro decree, after the southern Calabria town where more than 90 people died in a
shipwreck in February, the legislation severely limits the special protection status authorities can
grant to migrants who do not qualify for asylum.
By Isabella Arria and Aram Aharonian
Italy has registered more than 42,000 irregular arrivals since the beginning of 2023, four times
more than in the same period last year, and the Italian government says special protection
incentivises migrants to undertake "dangerous" journeys to the country.
“Special protection creates attractive conditions for immigration and we are going to eliminate it,”
said Nicola Molteni, of the right-wing League and undersecretary of the interior. Agriculture minister
Francesco Lollobrigida of the far-right Brothers of Italy – of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni – recently
sparked controversy by warning against the "ethnic substitution" of Italians by immigrants a highly racist notion.
Before the decree, people offered special protection status could live in Italy for two years, renew
their residence permit and convert it into a work permit. It was granted to asylum seekers at risk of
persecution in their country of origin, those fleeing war and natural disasters, as well as those who
had family ties or a high level of economic integration in Italy.
Special protection remains in place for those at risk of torture, inhuman treatment or systematic
violation of their rights in their country of origin, but the new law limits access by removing criteria
based on family ties or economic integration.
People fleeing natural disasters or seeking treatment for serious ailments will also see their access
to special protection restricted. Most importantly, they will not be able to convert it into a work
permit. Language courses and legal advice in reception centres will also be abolished.
Italy is not the only country to offer this type of protection. Although different terminology is used,
18 other European countries offer similar special protections.
Restricting access to special protection will push more migrants into an undocumented life outside
the law and deprive vulnerable people of their fundamental rights, especially after another decree
limited the work of non-profit rescue boats operating in the Mediterranean and Italy declared a six-
month state of emergency last month to curb migration flows.
From 2013 onwards, masses of irregular immigrants entered Italy, for whom, above all, there was
initially no work (because regions such as Sicily, Calabria, Puglia, Abruzzo or Basilicata have been
sending their young people to the north of the country for decades, to the extent that Lombardy
alone, with its 16 million inhabitants, concentrates 26-27% of the country's total population) and
which, in principle, should have been redistributed long ago by the European Union (EU) as a
One problem for Italy is that these irregular migrants end up trapped in Italy because neither
France, Austria nor Slovenia (the three EU members that border Italy) let these migrants in.
Neither does Switzerland: The Nobodies do not want these migrants. Germany, the EU's leading
economy with an aging population needs a lot of labour but, in the case of skilled labour, they
need to be able to speak a language as complex as that of their country.
France also has an aging country, and in its case, these irregular immigrants do speak the
language of the country, but most of them are unskilled and the population is so preoccupied by
the problems of insecurity on the streets that, in the last presidential elections, the far-right National
Front formation not only reached the second round but also gained almost 40 percent of support.
Europe has neither energy nor raw materials. Europe's manufacturing industry imports them from
elsewhere, and to function it needs energy, which it does not have either (neither gas nor oil), but it
does have food. The US does not want Germany to buy gas from Russia and everything indicates
that it destroyed the pipeline to prevent or make it impossible. It now costs four times as much as it
does in the US.
In Europe there is work, but they continue to suffer from an old demographic problem – they do not
produce children, new generations, labour – and societies are getting older and older: for example,
the average is 1.25 children per woman in Italy, which is very low if we take into account that it
should be at least two children per woman, in order to maintain the population. And so, wealth is
accumulating in fewer and fewer hands, in the hands of the few heirs to the fortunes. Middle-class
young people do not need to work: 80% of them live at home.
If more migrants did not come from Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, the
country would fall apart. They are the ones who sustain the economy. But they are not allowed to
feel that they have rights, so that they can exploit them more and better.
In Italy, 300,000 fewer people are born every year. For the first time in the history of the country,
less than 400,000 children are born in a year. There used to be just over 60 million and today there
are 58 million. Even many university students emigrate to other countries in search of a future. The
only way to compensate for this constant loss is with migrants who are prevented by the country's
politicians from integrating: they are not given work permits, residence permits, let alone health
The hard work is done by migrants, with or without papers, which facilitates their exploitation.
Having no integration policies, many of the migrants are forced to spill out into criminal activity, or
survive as semi-slaves, in a country that needs thousands of people, especially in the countryside.
Migrants from India and Pakistan, for example, raise cows and teach Italian farmers.
They say Africans don't know how to work, but they are not trained either, and maybe that's why
they see Italians as enemies, but primary schools are full of non-EU children. Sad. The northern
Italians discovered that they were racist, and not only towards their fellow countrymen in the south.
* Arria is a Chilean journalist based in Europe, an analyst associated with the Latin American
Centre for Strategic Analysis (CLAE, estrategia.la) and Aharonian, a Uruguayan communicator, is
director of CLAE.