Immigration to Italy
As of 1 January 2015, there were 5,014,437 foreign nationals resident in Italy. This amounted to 8.2% of the country's population and represented an increase of 92,352 over the previous year. These figures include children born in Italy to foreign nationals (who were 75,067 in 2014; 14.9% of total births in Italy), but exclude foreign nationals who have subsequently acquired Italian nationality; this applied to 129,887 people in 2014. They also exclude illegal immigrants whose numbers are difficult to determine. In May 2008, The Boston Globe quoted an estimate of 670,000 for this group. The distribution of foreign born population is largely uneven in Italy: 59.5% of immigrants live in the northern part of the country (the most economically developed area), 25.4% in the central one, while only 15.1% live in the southern regions. The children born in Italy to foreign mothers were 102.000 in 2012, 99.000 in 2013 and 97.000 in 2014.
Since the expansion of the European Union, the most recent wave of migration has been from surrounding European states, particularly Eastern Europe, and increasingly Asia, replacing North Africa as the major immigration area. About a million Romanians, around 10% of them being Roma, are officially registered as living in Italy. As of 2013, the foreign born population origin was subdivided as follows: Europe (50.8%), Africa (22.1%), Asia (18.8%), America (8.3%), and Oceania (0.1%).
|Country||2010 ||2011 ||2012 ||2013 ||2014 ||2015||2016 (%)|
|Sri Lanka||75,343||71,203||71,573||79,530||104,405||100,558||102,316 (0.17%)|
|Rest of Europe||219,210 (0.36%)|
|Rest of Sub-Saharan Africa||145,490 (0.24%)|
|Rest of Americas||141,632 (0.23%)|
|Rest of North Africa and Western/Central Asia||98,089 (0.16%)|
|Rest of East and South-East Asia||22,342 (0.04%)|
|Rest of South Asia||1,390 (<0.01%)|
|North Africa and Western/Central Asia||741,090 (1.22%)|
|South Asia||474,736 (0.78%)|
|East and South-East Asia||459,572 (0.76%)|
|Sub-Saharan Africa||369,567 (0.61%)|
2000s Mediterranean Sea crossings crisis
Due to the peninsula geographical position and close proximity to the North Africa coast, the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea has historically been the most used route for undocumented migrants. This route has become gradually more prominent as people flows through other routes to the EU gradually faded and political turmoil in Libya caused a general weakening of borders and coastal control, opening opportunities to people smuggling organisations.
The close distance between these islands and the African mainland has caused people smuggling organisation to employ boats and rafts otherwise hardly seaworthy, generally vastly filled above their capacity. Official reports list boats filled up to 2 or 3 times nominal capacity, including the use of rubber dinghies. This has led to several accidents at sea, as in 2007, the 2009, the 2011, the 2013, 2015. These accidents have become harder to document between 2014 and 2017, as people smuggling organisation changed their tactics: instead of aiming for a full crossing of the sea towards Lampedusa, their boats aimed just to exit Libyan territorial waters and then trigger rescue operation from passing mercantile vessels, seek and rescue organisations, Italian and Maltese coastguards and militaries. As per the United Nations Convention of the Sea, of which Italy is a subscriber, people rescued at sea have to be transported to the closer safe harbor: as Libya continues to be in political turmoil this means they are transported to Italy.
Once in Italy, the EU Dublin Regulation requires migrants to apply for legal residence, protection or asylum permits in the first EU country they cross into, effectively barring them from legally crossing internal EU borders until their case has been processed and positively concluded. As the vast majority of migrant people landing in Italy targets destinations in Central and Northern European States, they avoid filing permits applications in Italy and rather try a northwards land journey.
As a reaction to the gradual increase in migration flows through the Mediterranean Sea, Italian governments stepped up cooperation with Tunisian and Libyan authorities to halt activities of people smuggling organisation on land, as well as to allow boats rescued from the Italian Military in international waters to be towed back to the port where they left from. This policy, enacted in 2004 and 2005, sparked controversies related in particular to the compatibility with Italian and EU laws, as numerous reports documented acts of violence from Libyan authorities on migrants people. The policy was openly criticised by the EU Parliament.
In 2008, Berlusconi’s government in Italy and Gaddafi’s government in Libya signed a treaty including cooperation between the two countries in stopping unlawful migration from Libya to Italy; this led to a policy of forcibly returning to Libya boat migrants intercepted by the Italian coast guard at sea. The cooperation collapsed following the outbreak of the Libyan civil war in 2011. In 2012 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by returning migrants to Libya, as it exposed the migrants to the risk of being subjected to ill-treatment in Libya and violated the prohibition of collective expulsions., thus effectively ending the policy.
In 2009, as migrants flow picked up again, the overcrowded conditions at the island's temporary immigrant reception centre came under criticism by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The unit, which was originally built for a maximum capacity of 850 people, was reported to be housing nearly 2,000 boat people. A significant number of people were sleeping outdoors under plastic sheeting. A fire started as an inmate riot destroyed a large portion of the holding facility on 19 February 2009.
In 2011, as Arab Spring rebellions in Tunisia and Libya disrupted government control over borders and coasts, migrant flows increased again. By May 2011, more than 35,000 immigrants had arrived on the island from Tunisia and Libya. By the end of August, 48,000 had arrived. As migration and asylum policies are exclusive responsibilities of each member State, the increased migration pressure at EU Southern border sparked tensions between EU States on how to differentiate between people migrating due to economic reasons, which in principle are regarded as unlawful immigrants and thus forced to leave or deported, and people fleeing violence or religious, sexual orientation, political persecution, which can be granted asylum rights. As the Libyan authoritarian governments struggled to keep control of the country, it allowed an increase in northbound migrant flows as a tactic to pressure Italy and the EU not to militarily intervene in the country, as Gaddafi feared it would have been overthrown.
Controversies on NGO funding
After 2015, as an increased use of unseaworthy vessels by people smuggling organisations caused a marked increase in accidents at sea involving loss of lives, several European NGOs have started seek and rescue operations in close coordination with Italian Navy and coast guard units. These operations often happen close to Libyan territorial waters at the same time in order not to unlawfully enter Libyan jurisdictions and ensure migrant's safety. As per UNCLOS, rescued people are brought to the closer safe harbor, which is in most cases on Italian shore. This effectively means NGOs vessels are covering most of the distance between Libyan and Italian coast. Right-wing Italian newspapers and activists picked on that to make various claims, among which that NGOs active in migrants' assistance and rescue at sea are making huge gains on illegal immigration, or that some NGOs are part of unlawful people smuggling operations in coordination with operatives on Libyan coast, and funded by international criminal groups and financial institutions interested in developing political turmoil in Italy. Investigations on these claims have been started by the Italian Parliament and have been found to be unsubstantiated, with no further actions. .
- Immigration detention in Italy
- 2015 Mediterranean migration crisis
- List of countries by foreign-born population
- Movies about immigration to Italy
- The figures for 2002–2011 have been revised downwards as a result of the 15th General Census of Italy which offered more precise data. The figures since 2012 are calculated adding to the foreign population enumerated by the census the foreign population inflows and outflows recorded in all Italian municipalities during each calendar year.
- Since 2013, the European Union foreign nationals are no longer counted in the immigration statistics. This includes the Romanians, the largest minority group in Italy.
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