Meanwhile, in Europe

Immigration and social policies

Last month, 23 July, the Italian Constitutional Court declared inadmissible and unfounded the Italian Government appeal against the Tuscany regional law on reception, integration and protection of third country nationals approved on 9 June 2009.

Although the Italian Government appealed alleging that the Tuscany region exceeded its competence, the real reason was that the regional law in question guaranteed an important set of integration measures for third country nationals. In particular, what the government could not accept is the guarantee of access to emergency social services and healthcare foreseen also for irregular immigrants.

The adopted regional law is nothing more than a balanced reaction to the strict measures adopted by the government through the ‘security package’. It has to be recalled that the European Convention on Human Rights, just to mention one of the international instruments to which Italy is bound, does guarantee emergency healthcare for irregular migrants.

What does the Tuscany regional law 8 June 2009, n. 29, foresee?

According to art. 1, the main objectives are: the promotion of human rights regardless of citizenship; to achieve social cohesion through the valorisation of cultural differences; to establish a participatory system in dealing with migration issues; to promote immigrant’s participation in society and increase the value of intercultural relations; to develop positive actions in order to guarantee social inclusion and avoid exploitation of immigrants in vulnerable situations.

The measures foreseen (art. 6) to achieve these objectives are nothing more than what should be normally granted to immigrants. Regular migrants enjoy the same rights than Italian citizens with regard to:

  • Access to public life, also promoting migrants’ associations and granting the right to vote.
  • Access to housing, granting non-discrimination in the search for a place to live.
  • Access to welfare.
  • Access to healthcare.
  • Access to education and to the labour market, promoting the recognition of education and skills achieved in countries of origin.

Besides, the law guarantees access to emergency social services and healthcare to irregulars, as already mentioned, and establishes measures so as to facilitate the integration of immigrants as well as to avoid conflicts that would threaten social cohesion. Further, the law gives a particular attention to vulnerable categories (such as asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors and victims of trafficking) and encourages the participation of social partners and of civil society organisations, including immigrants’ associations. In fact, the Region commits itself to promote and coordinate, in collaboration with local authorities and civil society organisations, regional conferences in order to plan the activities established through the adopted law. A cross-sectoral approach built on intercultural dialogue is highlighted, establishing, among others, social mediation services and window offices that could be managed by local authorities, non-profit organisations, trade unions or employers’ organisations, so as to provide administrative support to immigrants.

What bothers the Italian government?

The Tuscany region does not keep secret its distaste towards the ‘security package’ implemented by the Italian government. In its website it clearly states that the ‘security package’ will not be solving the irregular immigration issue and reminds that in 2007 46,984 irregulars asked to be regularised and to only 13,030 the permit of stay was granted. Which means that “in Tuscany, 34,000 third country nationals are working in our enterprises and homes but are still irregulars by law. We let them take care of our families, live in our homes but we are not able to guarantee their dignity. If they get sick, should we treat them or let them die?” (from the Tuscany Region website).

There is nothing revolutionary; it is just a matter of being in accordance with the Italian Constitution and the International Law. The Tuscany region just believes that regular immigrants, since they pay taxes as any other citizen, have the same rights and duties than Italian citizens, and does not hide, as stated in the law’s preamble n.2, that immigrants contribute to economic development. Speaking of which, according to the Bank of Italy, immigrants in Italy contribute around 4% tax revenue, while accounting for about 2.5% of expenditure on basic services such as education, pensions, healthcare and measures of income support.

Reading suggestions:

Council of Europe, resolution 1509 (2006)

Legge regionale 08 giugno, n. 29. Norme per l’accoglienza, l’integrazione partecipe e la tutela dei cittadini stranieri nella Regione Toscana.

Immigrazione. La legge regionale. Sito web regione Toscana.

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