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Foreign-born population – 2017

6.1 million, 54% women

10% of the population

Evolution since 2007: +4%

Main countries of birth:

Romania (17%), Albania (8%), Morocco (7%)

In 2017, Italy received 217 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), 2.3% more than in 2016. This figure comprises 28.4% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 2.2% labour migrants, 52.3% family members (including accompanying family) and 14.7% humanitarian migrants.

Around 2 900 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 4 500 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 65 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2017, an increase of 5% compared to 2016. These posted workers were generally on short-term contracts.

Romania, Nigeria and Morocco were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2017. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Nigeria registered the biggest increase (8 600) and India the largest decrease (-2 300) in flows to Italy compared to the previous year.

In 2018, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by 57.8%, reaching around 53 400. The majority of applicants come from Pakistan (7 400), Nigeria (5 100) and Bangladesh (4 200). The largest increase since 2017 concerned nationals of El Salvador (900) and the largest decrease, nationals of Nigeria (-19 400). Of the 95 000 decisions taken in 2018, 32.2% were positive.

Emigration of Italians to OECD countries decreased by 0.2%, to 172 000. Approximately 30.0% of this group migrated to Germany, 16.7% to Spain and 11.1% to the United Kingdom.

The number of Italian citizens declaring a transfer of residence abroad in 2017 stood at 114 000, similar to 2016. Some of these transfers were naturalised immigrants returning to their home countries or moving to third countries, primarily in Europe.

The Annual Decree setting labour migration inflow was passed in January 2018, opening 18 000 entries for seasonal employment and 12 350 entries for contract and self-employment. Of these, 9 850 were permitted to change status from other permits, primarily for study, training and vocational education. 2 400 entries were authorised for self-employment, for categories ranging from artists and professionals to investors and start-up entrepreneurs. Admission of labour migrants outside these categories is authorised on the basis of exemptions. The decree closely mirrored the contents of the 2017 decree. The government has indicated that the 2019 decree will largely resemble that of previous years.

At the end of 2018, about 140 000 people were in the national protection system and 110 000 asylum applications were pending.

In October 2018, Italy passed reforms for its asylum and migration law. The new law changes some elements of the system. The grounds for issuance of permits for humanitarian reasons – for those who do not receive international protection – are made less discretionary, with cases limited to specific circumstances, including trafficking, domestic violence, forced labour, and risk of persecution or torture on return. Those who have previously received temporary humanitarian protection, upon expiration of their permit, are eligible to change status to work or family if conditions are met. If not, they must meet the new conditions for renewal of temporary humanitarian protection or face removal. Asylum processing is accelerated for persons from safe origin countries and defensive asylum requests. New asylum courts are established to reduce the backlog.

The national reception system for refugees and asylum seekers (SPRAR) was transformed into a system for those with international protection and unaccompanied minors (SIPROIMI). Reception for asylum seekers is in “Centres for Asylum” (CAR) and no longer mixed with those for refugees and persons with subsidiary protection.

Asylum seekers can be held up to 30 days in specific centres in order to verify their identity, with the possibility for some to be held in a closed facility (“repatriation centre”) for up to 180 days. Appeals will no longer be granted public defenders. Under the new law, protection can be revoked – and asylum applications rejected – for authors of certain crimes. Similarly, refugees who visit their home country without justification will have their protection withdrawn.

Citizenship by residence or marriage can only be acquired after four, rather than two years, from the date of submitting the application, and requires an Italian language level of B1 in the CEF.

In January 2018, Italy introduced new regulations for its 2016 “Start-up Visa”, specifying modalities for obtaining the visa and encouraging faster procedures in issuing the permit. In May 2018, Italy transposed EU Directive 2016/801 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research, studies, training, etc.

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Key figures on immigration and emigration - Italy
Key figures on immigration and emigration - Italy

Notes and sources are at the end of the chapter.


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