Campani, G.: Migration and Integration in Italy: A Complex and Moving Landscape, 2007

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The General Context

In Italy, the debate on integration started in the mid-nineties, following the development of the migratory process, the settlement of immigrants’ communities and the political agenda.   When immigrants first arrived in Italy, in the late seventies, the absence of a legal frame produced a sort of “limbo”, in which foreigners couldn’t either become regular or been expelled. Undocumented migrants could survive without a legal status, but also without the threat of expulsion. Legislation on migration was introduced slowly, from the mid-eighties onwards, responding more to “urgency factors” than to a coherent migratory policy, embracing the issue of flows control and the one of integration. In this context the incorporation of the immigrants in the Italian society has taken place mainly through a labor market that needs labor force for manual and unqualified jobs abandoned by the nationals in informal sectors (small enterprises, construction, tourism, Mediterranean agriculture, services to private persons) in a country where informal economy counts for around 30% of the national product, according to some estimations. Immigrants are needed for heavy, precarious, dangerous, low paid and socially penalized jobs.  Absence of policies and type of incorporation in the labor market has produced what a scholar has called: “subordinated integration” (Ambrosini, 2001).  

Until 1998, Italian national migratory policies focused mainly on regularization of irregular migrants and border control, even if the word integration is mentioned here and there in the Laws from 1986 onwards. Local institutions (Regions, Provinces and Towns) were charged to implement first integration policies as, for example, courses of Italian language for foreigners or take care of the housing. The role of the local authorities becomes crucial in a decentralized and regionally diversified country, in a migratory context characterized by a great variety of immigrant communities, migratory trajectories, labour market experiences.

The local authorities have cooperated with a network of NGOs both secular and religious, who have been active in the reception of immigrants, the organisation of programs of intercultural education, in various projects for  integration.  

It is only with the issuing of the Law 40/98, called Turco-Napolitano after its promoters (Giorgio Napolitano is the president of Italy now), that a general integration policy is outlined by the centre-left government headed –at the time as now- by Romano Prodi. In the introductory Report of the bill, the three goals of the Law 40 are so defined: “counteracting illegal migration and the criminal exploitation of the migratory flows; implementing of precise policies concerning legal entries, which must be programmed and regulated; setting up realistic integration paths entries for new immigrants and foreigner residents in Italy” (From the report introduced in the Chamber of Deputies on 19 February 1997)

A three years document establishes the guidelines for the implementation of the Law. In the DPR (Decree of the President of the Republic) of the 5th of August 1998, implementing Law 40, the integration is defined as: “a process of non-discrimination and of recognition of differences, that means a process of hybridization and  an experimental tool of new forms of relationships and behaviours in the continuous attempt to maintain universal principles and specificities,  in the constant and everyday attempt of keeping together universal principles and specificities, of preventing  situations of emargination and ghettoisation that threaten the equilibrium and social cohesion, and affirms the universal principles as the value of human  life, the dignity of the person, the recognition of women’s freedom, the protection of childhood, on which there are no possible exceptions, even in name of the difference.” (CNEL 2001)

In the years 1998-2001, during the centre-left governments, headed by Romano Prodi, Massimo D’Alema and Giuliano Amato, an attempt of developing an “Italian integration model” is prosecuted by the political powers through the involvement of a group of scholars, who are appointed to the National Commission for the policies of Integration of the immigrants, foreseen by the Law through the same DPR (Decree of the President of the Republic) of the 5th of August 1998, aimed at proposing a set of integration policies adapted to the Italian context.

The head of the Commission, Giovanna Zincone, professor of political science at the University of Turin, gathers various experts, to produce researches on topics connected with the integration of the immigrants and on the problems that can rise in the interaction with the Italian population. The two Reports of the Commission (Zincone, 2000 and 2001) represent an important contribution to the understanding of the Italian migratory context.

The members of the Commission for the policies of Integration of the immigrants share the principle that integration is an extremely complex concept, involving multiple dimensions –cultural, social and economic- that vary according to the territorial, the historical and the political contexts: “integration refers to a large spectrum of meanings, varying in time and space, according to the country that is considered, the historical-political contexts and the characters of the migratory phenomenon” (Golini, 2006). These meanings correspond to “models” – shifting ideally on a continuum from the assimilation model to multiculturalism.  The existing models present however a certain number of limits and may be object of critics.  The Commission for the policy of integration makes the attempt to develop a specific model of integration for Italy, taking into account the experiences of the other countries and the specificity of the Italian context. The members of the Commission call the Italian “model” “reasonable integration”. The pillars of the reasonable integration are two fundamental interconnected principles: the recognition of the person’s integrity and a low conflict-potential integration  or the prosecution of a positive interaction with the Italian population.

The reasonable integration is based on the recognition of cultural pluralism, the refusal of assimilation and the intercultural approach, promoting the exchange between the immigrants and the Italian society. At the same time, however, the necessity of sharing common values and norms is strongly affirmed. The reasonable integration is the product of the critiques to the assimilation model, but also to multiculturalism.  After having defined the reasonable integration, the Commission suggests a few measures and a main strategy in order to reach the goals: recognition of the person’s right, recognizing some rights to irregular migrants, and mobilization of the civil society (Italian local authorities and NGOs, but also immigrants’ associations).  

The change in the political majority (in 2001 the general elections bring into power the center-right coalition of Silvio Berlusconi) means a change in  government’s approach to migration: cultural pluralism is rejected in name of assimilation, while racist discourses are exploited by members of the government to get some consensus.  Even if the Law 40 is not suppressed, but just amended, the integration project, the Law intended to implement, is abandoned.

The centre-right government votes a new Law, called Bossi-Fini, from the name of the promoters, which amends the Law 40, introducing repressive measures, and cuts drastically the budget for integration. The National Fund for migration policies created by the Unified Act on Migration  (art. 45 Unified Act) is suppressed, while, because of the new policies to counteract illegal migration flows, the indiscriminate compulsory escorting of expelled migrants to the border means an investment of huge financial resources and the employment of countless members of the police force.  
During the five years of the right-wing government, integration policies are practically “frozen”. In absence of national policies, some scholars like Giuseppe De Rita (2002), wonder if it possible to talk of one model of integration: wouldn’t it easier to renounce to him, given the variety of the interactions between Italians and immigrants, as well of the labor integration according to the territorial differences? According to De Rita, the absence of national integration policies is certainly a factor that has left on the shoulders of the local authorities the development of integration policies, in collaboration with NGOs.  Differently from De Rita, other experts, as Franco Pittau one of the authors of the CARITAS Dossier, the main statistical document on immigration in Italy, are of the opinion  that, in spite of the absence of national integration policies, processes of integration have taken place at national level  through trade unions and NGOs.  The integration process in Italy would be the result of the interaction between immigrant communities and  the civil society, represented by secular and religious associations.

Moreover, the local experiences vary as well according to the immigrants’ communities. In Italy, there are a high number of immigrants’ nationalities, having different forms of integration according to their labor insertion. The question of the integration of the second generation in Italy is still relatively new and played inevitably in  the school, where a certain number of problems  exist.  The Ministry of Education has proposed since the eighties directives on intercultural education, but it is only with the Law 40 that the issue of education of foreign children has been dealt with a comprehensive approach. Law 40 has established the compulsory education for all foreign children, has foreseen initiatives for the learning of the Italian language and has promoted the protection of the language and culture of origin.  
With the defeat of the centre-right government in May 2006, a new political perspective is now opened, reflected in the first proposals of Giuliano Amato, Minister of the Interior, and of Paolo Ferrero, Minister of Social Affairs, in matter of migratory policies (more quota, sponsorship, facilities to obtain citizenship).   It is, however, too early to give a judgment on the new possible policies of integration. 

The "Second Generation"

As far as the second generation is concerned, this presence is extremely diversified. Children born and grown in the receiving society, teen-agers reunified after having completed their socialization process in their country of origin, children of mixed couples, etc... No simple definition can include them all. For this reason, Italian scholars are very skeptical about the notion of “second generation”. There is a debate on its same notion: if most experts agree that it is represented by the children of immigrants, both born in the receiving and sending country, but who joined the parents in early age and had an important part of their socialization and schooling in the receiving country, they insist on the need to distinguish typologies.

With regard to the Italian case, Graziella Favaro, who since twenty-five years has been working on the schooling of foreign children distinguishes among:
-minors born in Italy from foreign migrants;
-children born from mixed couples with an Italian parent;
-reunified minors;
-“separated” or “unaccompanied” minors;
-refugee minors;
-minors arrived within the international adoption process.

Due to the multifaceted nature of the concept itself, scholars agree (see Ambrosini and Molina 2004) in speaking of “second generations” (plural noun), distinguishing every time which group of “second generation” they refer to.

In all these cases, different legislative procedures apply, for instance with regard to nationality. A minor born in Italy from two foreign citizens is not granted the Italian citizenship, prevailing the idea of jus sanguinis; while a child born from a mixed couple is granted the Italian citizenship if one of the two parents holds the Italian nationality.  The Law proposal of Giuliano Amato done in July 2006 would modify the present system, granting the Italian citizenship to children of immigrants born in Italy.

The integration of second generation takes place mainly at school. The Ministery of Education data show, first of all, the spectacular growth of children of immigrants in the Italian schools over 90‘s: they were only 30.000 in 1992-1993. They are around 500.000 now, having had a growth of around 25% per year). It is about a not homogeneous growth over the all national territory.  They are concentrated especially in the North, where live 65% of the total students, living mostly in Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto. 25% live in the Centrum (especially in Lazio and Tuscany), while just 10% live in the South. This lack of homogeneity implies a strong concentration of foreign students in some schools, in other words in those located in the great employment attraction areas for immigrants.

Another peculiar characteristic of the Italian reality is made by the very differentiated composition of the foreign students, who belong to more than 170 different nationalities and who have approximately 80 origin languages (E.M., 2001). The students come mostly from Albania (17%), from Morocco (15,6%), from Ex-Yugoslavia (1%), but a relevant number arrives, as well, from different Asian countries (1/6 of the total foreign students), the main ones are China, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

In spite of these high numbers, the Italian school still today tends to face the presence of children of immigrants as an emergency and only in few cases it has an effective intervention plan. According to the experts, this is the main reason of a consistent school failure of immigrants’ children, who, after the mandatory education, attend superior educational and vocational levels. Data of 2003-2004 show that the difference between the rates of promotion of the foreign children, in comparison with the autochthonous is -3.36 for the primary school, -7,o6 for the secondary of first degree, -12, 56 for the secondary school of second level.
Since 1989, the Ministry of Education has paid attention to the issue of education of immigrants’ children and to the intercultural issue, by enacting several memorandums to which have been fixed the guide lines for intercultural education which stress the linguistic needs of students and the education to differences. Memorandums which establish criteria, principles, indications concerning several elements to which the school must pay particular attention.
For example, the memorandum “Intercultural dialogue and democratic living together: the projectual participation of the school” (“Dialogo interculturale e convivenza democratica: l’impegno progettuale della scuola”), Ministerial Memorandum 73 of 2nd March 1994, which is presented as a wide and organised document, in the way it is faced the intercultural issue in its complexity and it is stressed again the prospective created on an international level of the intercultural education as a “educational prospective for everybody” which already informed the former memorandum 122/1992. Starting from an idea of intercultural education coherent with the one already proposed by the European Council, according to which the intercultural education must be the highest educational answer to the multicultural society, the document indicates all the steps that the school must take to face all the needs of the new society. The effective strategies included in it go from the creation inside the school of a relational atmosphere which will make easy the integration among students and between them and the teachers, to a new didactic organization both in methodological and of contents terms, stressing even the vocational training for teachers. There are not missing references to school books together with libraries and multimedia libraries which must be organised to built themselves a more and more appropriate answer to the educational needs of the students. A special attention is given to the need to build a cultural network which could be able to link the different sources in the territory.
It comes, therefore, that in terms of scholastic legislation Italy since the first memorandums is in the van, in the way that are already stressed the fundamental principles on which the intercultural prospective should be based on. Principles recalled and deepened in several later documents.

In order to promote integration, the Unified Text for migration gives a special attention to the schooling of foreign children. We present here the main articles, on which we will come back later.
In article 36 of the Law 40/98, there is an explicit reference to the right to education of foreign children and to the preservation of the languages and cultures of origin:
“School community receives linguistic and cultural differences as a value to establish as a basis for reciprocal respect, exchange among cultures and tolerance; in order to reach this goal, it promotes and encourages initiatives aimed at reception, protection of culture and language of origin and implementation of common intercultural activities” (Art. 36, comma 3).

It is worth to dwell upon other two documents enacted recently. The first one is the Ministerial Memorandum 249 of 21st October 1999 about school located in strong migratory areas and which establishes the allotments of specific sources to single schools and which increment the school fund for the creation of activities directed to make easy the integration of foreign students and nomads in the school context (such M.M. is referred to the school year 1999-2000; in the following years, included the current one, have been adopted similar memorandums).

An explicit reference has been done to teachers involved in Italian language teaching, towards it goes the contribution of the action. All the schools, whose number of students reach 10% of the scholastic population can ask to take advantages of such contributes through the presentation of a project to the Ministry.
To the funds reserved to the schools is associated even a vocational offer about welcome issues and about Italian teaching as second language for those teachers who work in the school where there is a strong presence of not Italian speaking students coming from the immigration world. The creation, established by the Ministry, which selects the teachers who participate to it, has been done, then, by several Italian Universities proved as appropriate to be in charge of such issue (E.M, Memorandum 83 of 8th February 2001).
However, all these measures have not been sufficient to invert the bad school results of the second generation

General Conclusion

The processes of integration of the immigrants are recent in Italy and extremely differentiated according to the local realities and the immigrant groups. In front of this variety, the same concept of integration appears multiple and too complex to be “measured” through quantitative indicators. The concept of integration appears embedded in the political conflicts and discourses and responds to specific models, which have to be contextualized. The arrival of new important flows from Eastern Europe in the last years has certainly complicated more the picture, while Italy has become one of main receptors of immigrants with 3.600.000 legal foreign residents.  The new law proposal Amato-Ferrero could represent a shift towards a better recognition of the rights of the immigrants and their future integration in Italy. At the same time, however, the risk of growing xenophobia among parts of the Italian population is real.


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Giovanna Campani, Professor of intercultural education at the University of Florence, Italy