As the elections in Italy come to a close, one of the most discussed issues in the Italian political and social landscape remains the exploitation of labourers and migrants. Often accused of stealing work from Italians, migrants, on average, undertake jobs which are not remunerated well and lack professional standards, in addition to being more frequently subjected to exploitation and degrading working conditions, as in the case of illegal hiring. Current Italian policies and politicians intend to control the number of migrants by establishing entry quotas for different types of workers and issuing permits based on written contracts. These quotas, however, do not need the actual needs of migrant workers; and this system, in addition to loaning itself to abuse, increases the risk of exploitation of migrant labour. Indeed, every year thousands of migrants are exploited in agricultural fields by the illegal hiring system. Migrants work from morning to night for a few euros, without breaks, living in slums without toilets or other facilities.
Francesca Pizzutelli, a researcher of the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, stated in an interview with Amnesty that “in the last decade, the Italian authorities have fueled public anxiety by claiming that the country’s security is threatened by ‘illegal’ immigration, thus justifying the adoption of strict measures that have placed migrant workers in a precarious legal situation, making them easy prey for exploitation.” In the interview, Pizzutelli also states that immigration control can be a legitimate interest of any state but must not be carried out at the expense of the human rights of those within its borders, including migrant workers.
The Italian government needs to introduce laws and regulations to protect its immigrants from labour exploitation and abuse. Firstly, it is essential to fight illegal immigration at its roots by introducing sanctions against traffickers acting on migratory routes. These rules will help promote legal immigration, and migrants will more easily obtain fair work contracts under the control of the law. It is also necessary to introduce regulations within the Italian territory itself. The government must implement operations and investments to strengthen the regularization of work to protect and support workers as even the most recent efforts are still insufficient. The Italian government must understand that sustainable, long-term development cannot exist without the protection and promotion of fair work for all those residing in its territory.
Unfortunately, the abuse of illegal immigrants is not a new issue. At the beginning of 2011, there were 5.4 million migrants Italy. Approximately 4.9 million foreign citizens have documents that authorize them to stay in the country. Amnesty International has estimated that there are around half a million undocumented migrant workers or irregular migrants. Since 2011, there has been a sharp rise in the abuse of irregular workers, especially in the southern areas of the peninsula, particularly in the regions of Molise, Puglia and Calabria. Due to the lack of adequate control and regulation, the illegal exploitation of migrants on Italian territory has never been efficaciously fought.
The exploitation of migrants in Italy is a current problem but with a long history behind it. Due to a lack of control and the absence of rules surrounding illegal immigration, the exploitation of migrants has continuously increased since 2011. Thousands of illegal workers are abused by the criminal hiring system in the southern regions of the peninsula. As such, it is necessary to introduce rules that combat unregulated immigration and guarantee fair working conditions to fight these practices. The sustainable, long-term development of the country cannot exist without an appropriate work environment for all residing in its territory, which comprises both local citizens and immigrants alike.