• The digital system launched in 2023 has shifted the barriers to accessing the asylum procedure and made them less visible to the public, according to a new report by the International Rescue Committee.
  • Following the Prime Minister’s fourth visit of the year to Tunisia to solidify co-operation with the country and curb migrant arrivals, the European Ombudsman has initiated an inquiry into the EU-Tunisia Deal. 
  • The government has signed agreements with Morocco and the Community of Sant’Egidio to bring migrant workers to fill labour shortages in low-paid jobs.
  • A plan to make repatriation efforts more effective has been announced by the Interior Minister despite the government’s announcement of a significant decrease in migrant arrivals in the first months of 2024.
  • After five of investigation and two years of preliminary trial, both the prosecution and the judge have reportedly recognised that the accusations against the crew of the Iuventa search and rescue vessel were baseless.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has published a report on the “serious violations of basic rights” faced by people seeking asylum in major Italian cities. According to the report, which has been published exactly one year after the launch of a digital system aimed at easing access to the asylum procedure, the new system “could have helped to alleviate the barriers, delays, precarious conditions, and violence facing people trying to start the protection process there”. However, “the new digitalized system, while offering some a means to request appointments at the police headquarters, has largely shifted, not solved, the barriers and delays many protection seekers continue to face, and made them far less visible to the public”. Some of the barriers described in the report include lack of access to the technology and literacy needed to use the online platform, failure to provide translations, and system errors. IRC Italy has highlighted the severe consequences of these barriers, including denial of the right to reception and exploitation by third parties. The organisation has called on the Italian authorities to find immediate solutions to tackle long delays, resolve obstacles to the submission of applications for international protection and provide accessible and up-to-date information to applicants in languages they speak. Another report on immigration detention in Italy has been published by ECRE member organisation the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). In its report, JRS Europe has highlighted the issue of the detention of minors in Italy where local authorities employ a strategy of accusing the captains of migrant boats – who are often unaccompanied minors – of “facilitating irregular entry”. “This offense carries a penalty of imprisonment, with sentences reaching up to 16 years, alongside hefty fines. If any deaths occur on the boat, minors can even face charges of murder,” it wrote, highlighting the policy’s failure to address the root cause of human trafficking, namely the lack of safe and legal pathways into the EU.

On 17 April, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni signed three agreements with Tunisia during her fourth official state visit to the North African country. “Collaboration with Tunisia is absolutely a priority for Italy from many points of view and it is also a piece of the work that Italy is carrying out with the Mattei Plan,” Meloni said during a press conference in Tunis after meeting Tunisian President Kais Saied who affirmed his government’s “firm” position against the country being a transit route for irregular migrants. The Mattei Plan, a €5.5 billion project which was announced by the government in January, is aimed at boosting economic development in Africa and curbing irregular migration to Italy. According to Euractiv, in addition to migration issues, agreements totaling €100 million were signed covering three areas: direct budget support for Tunisian state efficiency in energy and renewable energies, a credit line for Tunisian small and medium enterprises, and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between respective ministries of university and research. Meanwhile, NGOs and human rights advocates published a joint statement to mark the first anniversary of the start of systematic violations and racist and xenophobic campaigns targeting sub-Saharan migrants in Tunisia following an infamous statement by the president in which he linked the presence of migrants to “a plot to alter the demographic composition of Tunisia”. “The policies of successive governments have continued to bow to the dictates of the European Union in the externalisation of its borders, delegating security management and border surveillance to the countries of the southern Mediterranean. This outsourcing is accompanied by the pitting of financial aid, subsidies, and loans to be paid to southern countries on the condition that they agree to play the role of the EU’s border guards”, the NGO statement read. The signatories condemned the EU’s “border security and outsourcing policies, which undermine human rights” and called on the Tunisian state to “respect national and international law with regards to people on the move, and to reject all European border externalisation policies”. On 19 April, two days after the signature of the agreements between Italy and Tunisia, the European Ombudsman opened an own-initiative inquiry into how the European Commission intends to guarantee respect for human rights in the context of the EU-Tunisia MoU. The Ombudsman highlighted concerns about the absence of a prior human rights impact assessment, notably relating to the ‘Migration and mobility’ pillar and the actions foreseen under it.

Immigrants to Italy were behind at least half of all food production in the country in 2022, according to a report commissioned by the Italian Confederation of Trades Unions (FAI-CISL). However, official government data showed that a total of 362,000 immigrants had worked in the food sector that year for just 31.7% of the total days worked. FAI-CISL unions have claimed that the government’s data is “distorted” as it overlooks the “invisible workers” who play an active role in Italian food production but are not counted due to labour exploitation. “There is no production chain or sector of agrifood Made in Italy in which migrant workers do not have a significant or irreplaceable role,” the report stated. Meanwhile, the government is expanding ways to bring migrant workers to Italy, which has one of the world’s oldest and fastest-shrinking populations, in order to fill the labour shortage in low-paid jobs. On 28 March, an MoU between Italy and Morocco that will offer Moroccan nationals the opportunity to undergo vocational training to work in Italy was signed in the Sicilian city of Palermo. “We want to offer migrants appropriate alternatives to the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea,” said Paolo Ragusa, regional chairman of the Foreign Workers Association. In addition, the NGO Community of Sant’Egidio has announced that it is launching a pilot project on “work corridors” in co-operation with the Italian Interior Ministry Under the project, 300 migrant workers from Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Lebanon will be recruited and provided with Italian language and professional training for specific jobs reserved for them before they move to Italy.

The government has claimed that migrant arrivals have decreased by 50% in the first three months of 2024, compared to the same period in 2023. The Interior Ministry has reported that 9,479 migrants reached Italy between 1 January and 22 March, compared to 20,364 in the same period in 2023. In the same period, 688 unaccompanied minors reached Italy, down from over 2,000. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi has said that the government is “devoting special efforts to render repatriation procedures more effective and to improve the network of repatriation centers (CPRs)”. “It is the EU, additionally, that requires the creation of CPRs to ensure effective implementation of deportation orders and not for other ends, since the lack of detention in such facilities would expose Italy to violation of EU regulations and consequently sanctions,” he claimed. Piantedosi also said that the government would introduce specific measures to increase the reception capacity of CPRs as 2023 data confirmed the “absolute necessity of having available an adequate number of places in these facilities”. “In 2023, of the 4,743 foreign nationals deported, 3,134 had spent time in a CPR,” he explained, adding: “As of April 7 of this year, about 60% of those repatriated transited through a CPR”.

On a positive note, all charges against the crew of the search and rescue ship Iuventa have been dropped after seven years of legal investigations as both the prosecution and the judge recognised that the accusations were “baseless”. The crew X posted that the decision confirmed that the trial, which they described as “part of the EU’s war on migrants”, had been “a political prosecution by the Italian authorities with the only aim of discouraging solidarity with migrants”. Their relief at the ruling was also clearly tempered by ongoing deaths in the Mediterranean and continued criminalisation of migrants and those who try to help them. “The Iuventa Crew is free, but the criminalization doesn’t stop,” they wrote.

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