Chapter 1. Key data on migrant presence and integration in Rome

This chapter compiles key statistics on the presence and integration outcomes of migrant population in Rome and in comparison to the rest of the country. In 2017 non-EU residents in Rome metropolitan area represented 9.3% of total non-EU residents in Italy while in the city of Rome foreign residents represents 13% of total population, concentrated in certain districts. Initially migration to Italy consisted of low-skilled migrants and is more recently characterised by family reunification and a growing number of native-born offspring of immigrants. The chapter also provides an insight on the national migration legislative framework.

Box 1.1. Definition of migrant and refugee

The term “migrant” generally functions as an umbrella term used to describe people that move to another country with the intention of staying for a significant period of time. According to the United Nations (UN), a long-term migrant is “a person who moves to a country other than that of his or her usual residence for a period of at least a year (12 months)” (UNSD, 2017). Yet, not all migrants move for the same reasons, have the same needs or are subject to the same laws.

This report considers migrants a large group that includes:

  • Persons who have emigrated to an EU country from another EU country (‘EU migrants’),

  • Persons who have come to an EU country from a non-EU country (‘non-EU born or third-country national’),

  • Native-born children of immigrants (often referred to as the ‘second generation’), and

  • Persons who have fled their country of origin and are seeking/ have obtained international protection.

For the latter, some distinctions are needed. While asylum seekers and refugees are often counted as a subset of migrants and included in official estimates of migrant stocks and flows, this is not correct according to the UN’s definition that indicates that “migrant” does not refer to refugees, displaced, or others forced or compelled to leave their homes:

“The term ‘migrant’ in Article 1.1 (a) should be understood as covering all cases where the decision to migrate is taken freely by the individual concerned, for reasons of ‘personal convenience’ and without the intervention of an external compelling factor” (IOM Constitution Article 1.1 (a)).

According to recent OECD work the term “migrant” is a generic term for anyone moving to another country with the intention of staying for a certain period of time – not, in other words, tourists or business visitors. It includes both permanent and temporary migrants with a valid residence permit or visa, asylum seekers, and undocumented migrants who do not belong to any of the three groups (OECD, 2016b).

Thus, in this report the following terms are used:

  • “Status holder” or “refugee” who have successfully applied for asylum and have been granted some sort of protection in their host country, including those who are recognised on the basis of the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, but also those benefiting from national asylum laws or EU legislation (Directive 2011/95/EU), such as the subsidiary protection status. This corresponds to the category ’humanitarian migrants’ meaning recipients of protection – be it refugee status, subsidiarity or temporary protection – as used in recent OECD work (OECD, 2016b).

  • ‘Asylum seeker’ for those individuals who have submitted a claim for international protection but are awaiting the final decision.

  • ‘Rejected asylum seeker’ for those individuals who have been denied protection status.

  • ‘Undocumented or irregular migrants’ for those who do not have a legal permission to stay.

This report systematically distinguishes which group is targeted by policies and services put in place by the city. Where statistics provided by the cities included refugees in the migrant stocks and flows, it will be indicated accordingly.

The Statistical Unit of Roma Capitale (City of Rome) and ISTAT (Italian Statistical Authority) consider in their statistics the category Foreign Resident (Straniero dimorante abitualmente) to refer to persons with non-Italian citizenship (excluding persons who have dual citizenship, i.e. both Italian and non-Italian citizenship who count as Italians) who regularly reside in their accommodation or cohabitate, and who have a residence permit to stay in Italy (work permit, family reunification permit, or request of first or renewal of residence permit)1

Key Statistics

Figure 1.1. Cittá Metropolitana di Roma Capitale (equivalent to the TL3 area)

Note: Territorial Level 2 (TL2) consists of the OECD classification of regions within each member country. There are 335 regions classified at this level across 35-member countries. Territorial Level 3 (TL3) consists of the lower level of classification and is composed of 1681 small regions. In most cases, they correspond to administrative regions. Source: OECD (2018), OECD Regional Statistics Database,






Cittá Metropolitana di Roma Capitale

Lazio Region


National level

Total resident population; 60 589 445 (1 January 2017, ISTAT2)

Foreign resident population: 5 047 028 (1 January 2017, ISTAT3)

In 2017, the presence of irregular migrants represented 8.2% of the total foreign population (ISMU, 2017)

  • Country subnational government expenditure as a % of GDP: 28.7% vs. OECD34 average of 40.2%

Cittá Metropolitana di Roma Capitale – Metropolitan City of Rome – ex Provincia di Roma – is composed of 121 municipalities – The Mayor of the metropolitan area is also the mayor of the City of Rome.

  • Population of the Metropolitan City: 4.3 million

  • Foreigner residents on 1 January 2017: 544 956 persons4

  • Non-EU foreign residents: 345 897 as of January 2017, this represents 9.3% of total non-EU residents in Italy (Minister of labour and social policies, 2018)

  • 7% of the resident population of the Metropolitan Area of Rome are non-EU citizen

  • Number of asylum seekers: 4 063 in 2016 in Metropolitan City of Rome.

  • In January 2016, 15 006 non-EU citizens were registered in the Metropolitan City either as either asylum seekers, refugees or subsidiary protection status holders (Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, 2016)

  • Employment rate 15-64 year-olds: 66% for immigrant population; 61% for total population in 2015 Metropolitan City of Rome (Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, 2016)

  • Unemployment rate: 13% for migrant population; 11% for total population in 2014 Metropolitan City of Rome (Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, 2016)

  • 10.7% of all the persons who declared their income tax in Rome were foreigners in 2015 (Metropolitan City of Rome, 2016)

  • Percentage of single-owner businesses whose registered owner has non-EU nationality: 18.7% (Metropolitan City of Rome, 2016

  • 53.2% of non-EU workers in Rome metropolitan area earn less than EUR 800 per month (Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, 2016)

Comune di Roma Capitale (City of Rome)

Unless otherwise specified, the following data have been provided by the Statistic Unit of the City of Rome in March 2017 (Ragioneria Generale - I Direzione “Sistemi informativi di pianificazione e controllo finanziario” - U.O. Statistica).

  • Roma Capitale - Comune di Roma: composed of 15 districts (Municipi)

  • Total city population: 2 864 731 (2016)

  • 377 217 foreign residents in the City of Rome as of January 2017 (Roma Capitale, 2017)

  • Foreign residents represent 13.1% of the total residents in Rome

  • 70% of the foreign-born population living in the Roma Metropolitan area are registered in the City of Rome (Comune di Roma)

  • Number of unaccompanied minors 340 in 2016 in Metropolitan City of Rome

  • The most important countries of origin: Romania, Philippines, Bangladesh, China.

  • Educational Attainment (Primary; Secondary; High School, University) – % for foreign residents; % for all resident population

    • Primary: 34.9% of migrant population; 10.9% of all resident population achieved primary level

    • Secondary: 20.3% of migrant population, 10.8% of all resident population achieved secondary education

    • High School: 26.3% of migrant population; 8.5% of all resident population achieved high school level.

    • University: 18.7% of migrant population

Migration flows

National level

In Italy the foreign-born population has multiplied by fourteen between 1990 and 2015, from 356 159 in 1991 to about five million in 2015 (OECD, 2017) accounting for 10% of the working-age population in 2011/12 (OECD, 2014). Around one third of foreign residents originate from EU and 3 714 136 (2017) are non-EU regular migrants (ISTAT, 2018). According to Eurostat, Italy is now the fifth country of the European Union in terms of the size of the immigrant population and the first country for acquisition of citizenship.

Total residence permits issued to foreigners decreased from 600 000 permits issued in 2010 to 226 934 in 2017. However the share of international protection permits, among total permits increased from 7.5% in 2010 to 34.5% that were granted during 20165. After a decree was issued in 2017 (see page 21), a quota of labour permits was set up that is equal to 30 850 permits, which was on par with the previous year, 18 000 of which were reserved to entries for seasonal work and a big part for converting residence permits such as student permits (Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, 2017).

In 2016, arrivals at the Italian shores reached 180 000 people and 120 000 asylum applications were registered (OECD, 2017).

Initially, migration to Italy consisted mainly of low-skilled migrants; however, more recently family reunification has led to a large settled immigrant population and a growing number of native-born offspring of immigrants (OECD, 2014).

A signal of the stabilisation of immigrant population is the increase of the number of individuals who acquired Italian citizenship. In 2015 the number was 178 035 (ISTAT, 2018), which was a 21% increase compared to 2014; and in 2016, 185 000 non-EU residents obtained citizenship, 40% of them were under 20 years old (Ministry of Labour and Social policies, 2018). It is estimated that approximately 1 million foreign residents between 16 and 18 years of age would be naturalised if the law on nationality (see page 21) would pass. Some immigrants leave the country once they receive Italian citizenship. In 2016, 28 000 foreign-born persons who obtained Italian citizenship emigrated (+19% compared to 2015), 50% of them returned to the country of origin, 43% move to another EU country and 7% to another non-EU country (ISTAT, 2017).

The Metropolitan area of Rome

Rome is the second metropolitan city in Italy in terms of non-EU residents after Milan. The presence of non-EU residents increased in the Metropolitan area of Rome by 37% between 2011 and 2017 while it increased by 5% at national level (Ministry of Labour and Social policies, 2018). Compared to other Italian metropolises, foreign residents in Rome seem less stable: 50% of non-EU migrants have a long-term resident permit ( lungo soggiornanti) compared to 70% in Venice and 61% in Genova and the national average being 60% (Ministry of Labour and Social policies, 2018).

The City of Rome

Table 1.1. Foreign residents in the City of Rome (Roma Capitale)


Native population

Foreign resident population

Foreign resident from the EU

Other European foreign residents

Non-European foreign residents

Total population

Number of people

2 499 550

377 217**

181 781***

66 359***

107 620***

2 864 731*

Source: *Istat (2015); ** Roma Capitale (2017); *** Centro Studi e Ricerche IDOS (2016a).

In 2016 44.3%of foreigners () resident in the City of Rome came from Europe the second biggest community of foreign residents originated from Asia (33.3%), followed by Africa (12.0%) and the Americas (10.3%) (Roma Capitale, 2017).

In fact, the top five nationalities of foreign residents in Rome are from a European or Asian country, with 24% of foreigners coming from Romania, followed by three Asian countries, respectively Philippines (11%), Bangladesh (8%) and China (5%). The fifth is Ukraine representing 4% of foreigners.

Foreign distribution across Municipal districts in Rome is diversified. In Municipio (district) I, foreigners represent 24% of the total population whereas in Municipio IX they account for 8.2% (Metropolitan City of Rome, 2016).

Figure 1.2. Percentage of foreign population over total population per district, 2015

Note: The highest concentration of migrant is registered in Municipio I (24.1%, 45 014 foreign residents in 2015); Municipio VI (17%, 43 377 residents in 2015) and Municipio V (15.8%, 39 000 residents in 2015) (Metropolitan City of Rome, 2016).

Source: Anagrafe Roma.

Migration legal framework (See page 75)

In the past the Government regulated migratory flows mainly through the annual flows decree ‘Decreti Flussi’. It checked annually the labour need of the territory, and it established the number of foreigners who could enter the country for work reasons. The Government has often – though not always – been able to manage the flows in advance, and regularisation programmes (Sanatorie) have allowed irregular migrants present in Italy to obtain residence permits. Eight regularisation programmes took place between 1980 and 2012 and a new one was announced for 20186. In 2002, the largest regularisation programme saw around 700 000 applications received, a large share of applications was for domestic work and caregiving, reflecting both the change in the labour market for immigrants and the more favourable eligibility criteria (OECD, 2014). Since 2002, the Bossi-Fini law distinguishes between “clandestine” migrants, that is to say foreigners entering Italy without a regular visa and "irregular" migrants, foreigners who no longer meet residence requirements (permit). According to current legislation, clandestine immigrants are punishable by a fine or detention or by expulsion.

Since 20127 the Integration Agreement (see page 24) came into action and made learning Italian a requirement for obtaining a residence permit exceeding one year for non-EU citizens (excluding international protection applicants, or migrants citing family reasons).

The condition for obtaining Italian citizenship through naturalisation is ongoing, documented residence in Italy for ten years and it depends on the decision of the public administration. The foreigner who is born in Italy, and who resides there for 18 years without any interruption, in order to acquire Italian citizenship, has to declare the willingness to acquire it before his or her 19th birthday. In 2017, a proposal based on the ‘Ius-soli’ principle was discussed in the Parliament to reduce the delay for acquiring citizenship for children of regular migrants born in Italy. The law would give access to citizenship after 16 years of residence for individuals who have done their schooling in Italy. The law has been discussed several times since 1992 and was again rejected in December 2017. Family reunification is granted to all migrants who have a regular permit for work (for at least one year), asylum, subsidiary protection, study, religion, family, long-term stay, or pending naturalisation. There are two requisites to fulfil: having a minimum income, and an adequate accommodation. Beneficiaries of refugee or subsidiarity protection status do not have to fulfil such criteria.

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