Executive summary

Migrant-related issues have been tackled in Italy and in Rome since the 1990s. The foreign-born population living in Italy has multiplied by fourteen between 1990 and 2015, from above 350 000 in 1991 to about five million in 2015, turning Italy from a country of emigration into a country of immigration. Rome is a migration hub and the biggest city in Italy for number of migrants, with close to 380 000 foreign residents in 2017 coming from 183 different countries (Roma Capitale 2017). Most of the migrants transit in the city, though sometimes it can take years, before continuing their journey, often towards northern European destinations. Although since 1990 an articulated national legislative framework for migrant integration has been developed, it still struggles to fully translate into a comprehensive and co-ordinated implementation of integration policies, and the vision for migrant inclusion has remained fragmented both at local and national level. Initially focussing primarily on overcoming early obstacles related to reception and registration, the Italian public response increasingly mainstreamed integration-related measures across different policy sectors including health, housing, work, education, participation in social and public life, support to family reunification, etc.

Since the early 2000s, reception and early integration of asylum seekers and refugees have been articulated through a co-ordinated and multi-level protection system (the SPRAR). Since 2015, however, Italy has experienced a rapid increase in arrivals: 180 000 new arrivals reached Italian shores in 2016, and in January 2016, 15 000 non-EU newcomers were registered in the Metropolitan City of Rome either as asylum seekers, refugees or subsidiary protection status holders. In order to enlarge the capacity of the SPRAR system, the Italian government established a parallel emergency reception system (CAS) with looser standards in terms of co-ordination with local authorities and early integration measures. In addition, NGOs and faith-based organisations are omnipresent in both areas, reception and long-term integration. Historically, they have generated a myriad of solutions, adapting rapidly to changing local needs. Non-state actors intervene in support of migrants and refugees, either fulfilling their own mandates or implementing services outsourced by the city of Rome.

Lack of cross-levels policy tools and funding to coherently address integration issues has to be understood in the framework of the economic situation of Italian host communities and fiscal constraints. Public resources for social services for all citizens have decreased significantly in recent years. For instance between 2006 and 2016, the National Fund for Social Policy’s (FNPS) budget decreased by almost 40% - from EUR 825 million in 2006 to EUR 311 million in 2016. Similarly, in Rome funding for social services decreased by 6.1% - from EUR 366 million in 2012 to EUR 344 million in 2014. At the same time, the demand for social services by poor and homeless national groups increased by 5% between 2012 and 2013.

Following the principle of universal access to public services, most of the actions developed by the sub-national administration - and described in this report - are not migrant-specific, but apply to all residents based on their level of vulnerability.

Regional and local authorities are in charge of the implementation of critical integration-related measures, including services for accessing the labour market, health and adult education. Their action is framed by the availability of resources: allocated either by the national government, collected locally, received from foundations and charities, or from EU funding.

In the absence of a city-wide strategy for migrant integration, measures are often emergency-driven. The increase of arrivals in 2015 contributed to ‘revealing’ the city’s long-standing housing and social exclusion challenges regardless of the specific recipient categories in Rome’s population.

Key findings

Some of the remaining challenges

  • In Rome, as is the case in most of the European cities studied, the passage from the reception system (SPRAR or CAS), where newcomers are initially hosted, to universal services and public administration procedures can be very problematic. Among other reasons (i.e. insufficient social housing availability, low local staff capacity, etc), this might also be due to weak multi-level co-ordination: the different reception and integration policies typically follow separate funding and management lines. These circumstances lead migrants, including recognised refugees, to turn increasingly to associations, informal networks and sometimes to live in informal settlements in the city. Improve the links between targeted and universal services could be beneficial. Rome could consider practices adopted in other EU cities for strengthening recognised refugees’ effective passage towards accessing universal services, such as the programme implemented by the city of Amsterdam, which pairs one municipal case worker for every 30 refugees during the first three years since recognition.

  • Although all foreigners, including asylum seekers, have the right to access health and social services in the municipality, where they register as residents, there might be discontinuities in effectively accessing this right. The evidence collected from this case study points to a possible lack of accompanying mechanisms during the process of enrolling in the municipal residence registry, with implications for finding housing and a job. Innovative solutions such as the ‘Residenze Fittizie’ practice have been proposed as an example to other cities, however, their accessibility and sustainability should be monitored. Better availability of information and adapted mechanisms should be in place to guide migrants during the process of enrolling in the municipal registry.

  • Provision of Italian language classes for adults in Rome just covers the need of 60-70% of the foreign resident population. At the same time, individuals must learn Italian in order to obtain their residence permit (Integration Agreement). In addition, the existing offer in Rome relies mainly on actions carried out by Italian NGOs that have organised themselves in the network ‘Scuolemigranti’. A more performant public language teaching system would enable migrants to fulfil more easily their obligation to learn Italian set by law, and is therefore crucial to integrate in the local society. A well-developed local mechanism for language training is the one implemented by the city of Stockholm that offers 11 language course geared to the future sector of employment of the newcomers. To respond to growing educational needs, public services could also strengthen co-ordination across levels of government (Ministry of Education, the Region and the Municipality), in particular for identifying available resources (EU, national and municipal funding) for teaching and formulating a shared programming cycle and indicators.

  • The city of Rome still needs to develop a clear vision and related communication strategy with regard to integration actions and the contribution that migrants bring to local development. In a context, where the public discourse on migration has been focused primarily on security, the municipality could ease tensions by communicating, in a sensitive way, on actions that have been taken to improve reception and integration, and developing narratives on the positive contributions that migrants make to the city. In this sense, the examples of the communication strategies adopted in Berlin, Paris and Barcelona could be helpful.

  • Housing, and in particular social housing, is highly problematic in Rome for the entire city population, i.e. foreigners and Italians. Beneficiaries of international protection, as well as other migrants, often find it hard to access decent living conditions. The 2015 peak in arrivals led to an increased number of migrants living in squats and spontaneous settlements; around 3 000 asylum seekers and refugees were estimated to be in this situation in 2016. This emergency revealed structural shortages in public housing that have not been addressed through a local policy since the 1980s. Beyond emergency measures, the city should invest in long-term public housing, which is one of its competences, and develop projects aiming at the well-being of all inhabitants and vulnerable households in particular. The city of Gothenburg offers interesting examples in terms of long-term housing plans that aim at increasing the social mix and include migrant groups in their reflection to avoid further segregation.

What is already being done and what could be improved

  • Policy coherence at local level: Since 1993, Rome’s City Council ensures access for migrants to universal welfare and health services (see page 59) as a result of the application of national and regional laws, as well as through specific municipal integration projects. Most services are formally accessible for resident foreigners in areas such as reception, education, vocational orientation, culture, etc. However, the city’s overall approach to integration remains rather fragmented and heterogeneous. In this regard, a ‘road-map’ approach to mainstream integration standards that ensure access for migrants and refugees across all sectors could be helpful. Some cities analysed through this study have developed more systematic strategies (such as Vienna, Barcelona, Amsterdam, etc), by designing bridges among service providers to ensure migrants’ access to various universal services in a consistent way.

  • Political oversight of the city’s approach to integration. In particular since 2015, most of the cities analysed in this study, have scaled up or established municipal department/ entity with clear competences and resources for migrant and refugee integration (Vienna, Amsterdam, Barcelona, etc). Other municipalities appointed a vice-mayor (Athens), a Commissioner (Berlin), or an advisor (Gothenburg) for migration and refugees at the highest executive level. In Rome, the Social Policies Department has established several ‘technical co-ordination offices’ for integration-related topics (i.e. technical office for reception, labour, etc.) or specific groups (i.e. unaccompanied minors, Roma, etc.) as described on page 36. This is a quite unique practice for sharing information and seeking coherence across departments; however, its efficiency needs to be tested over time and there is also the risk that such technical offices perceive refugees and migrants as groups needing specialised services, with a tendency to develop parallel structures and work in silos. Other configurations could ensure a more holistic view and better accountability regarding the integration process at the highest level of the city’s decision-making structure, while supporting the work of the Social Policies Department.

  • Co-ordination and evaluation across levels of government. Despite the existence of legislative frameworks, plans and dialogue mechanisms (see page 32 and 40), effective co-ordination across levels of government with regard to long-term integration issues could be improved. As previous OECD analysis emphasised, a large number of political and institutional bodies charged with co-ordinating and streamlining integration policy exist in Italy. The challenge is to identify which are most likely to deliver concretely and to influence integration investments (OECD, 2014). Efforts to streamline integration policies exist. Still, both the Lazio plan for integration and the social plan identify strengthening governance systems and inter-institutional relations as an objective. For the time being, city and regional plans with an impact on migration issues (i.e. plan to address Roma communities’ health issues, etc.) are not always co-ordinated, leading to potential overlap or delivery gaps. In this sense, some interesting practices for cross-level consultations and evaluation mechanisms can be found in Germany, where integration indicators are formulated by the Conference of the Ministers of Interior of all Länder, together with the federal level; or in the Netherlands, where thematic multi-level and multi-stakeholder consultations are held, for instance, with regard to discrimination in the labour market.

  • EU funding as a leverage for improving co-ordination among levels of government. The establishment of the AMIF (Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the EU) increased opportunities for close collaboration across levels of government and sectors. The fund is spent by the regions themselves (based on the priorities set by the managing authority for the integration component, i.e. the Ministry of Labour) and merges the European Refugee Fund (ERF) and European Integration Fund (EIF), thus reducing the risk of formulating fragmented policies, where some target economic migrants while others target humanitarian migrants (see page 38). Within this framework, regions could more systematically establish a dialogue with relevant stakeholders and municipalities to set the local objectives as it has been the case for the Programma Multi-Azione in the Lazio region see page 32.

  • Collaboration with non-state actors. Spending restrictions to hiring personnel, difficulties to effectively use public resources; etc. contribute to hinder public actors’ capacity to implement integration-related policies and increase their reliance on third-sector actors and service providers (OECD, 2014). This allowed successful integration practices to emerge, more as the result of scattered efforts, rather than through a systematic trajectory. However, given the myriad of stakeholders and external service providers, local authorities often face difficulties assuming control of the direction of local integration policy (Chaloff, 2006). The city started capitalising on this wealth of knowledge, in particular through the SPRAR mechanisms (see page 41). However, a co-ordination platform involving all relevant actors under municipal guidance, with clear objectives and indicators, as well as more stable funding mechanisms could make collaboration with non-state actors more effective. Rome could learn for instance from Barcelona, where NGOs and the municipality co-ordinated provision of services to migrants, in particular regarding language classes.

  • Migrant students’ inclusion in public schools. Stakeholders share the view that in the past it has been easy to enrol children with different backgrounds in Italian public schools at any level, regardless of whether they speak Italian, which is a great advantage for the integration of young newcomers. However, to maximise their academic success and integration, schools should be supported by appropriate financial and human resources, specifically with trained teachers.

  • Evaluation of the combined impact of local policies on integration. In the absence of a clear local strategy for integration, evaluation tools also remain weak. While data on migrant population exist (see page 53), there is no municipal evaluation framework to track results of municipal combined policies to address the gaps this group is experiencing. Despite the absence of an evaluation framework, reports produced on integration by independent local observatories, such as the Osservatorio Romano sulle Migrazioni, are used by local authorities for instance in the formulation of the calls for public tenders for outsourcing integration-related services. It would be helpful to enhance the use of data on migrant outcomes by policy makers to adjust future policy decisions. Evidence-based policy-making mechanisms in Gothenburg and Vienna can serve as examples of using data on social exclusion (e.g. origin, neighbourhood, education, etc.) to formulate more sustainable city policies.

  • Access the local labour markets. In a national context, where many labour contracts are informal (Chaloff, 2006), with the informal sector accounting for and estimated 12% of Italian GDP in 2013 and 35% of this underground economy being produced through undeclared work (ISTAT, 2015), migrants as well as nationals do not often rely on public employment services (Centres for Employment CpI, Centre for orientation in the labour market COL, etc.), but rather on informal networks to find a job (see page 54). Some small-scale experiences funded by the municipality were successful in integrating refugees in the formal labour market (see page 56). Building on the work of existing vocational and employment services, the municipality could play a more active role in matching labour supply and demand in the formal local job market, including to the benefit of migrants. In addition the municipality can play a key role in raising migrants’ and employers’ awareness of labour rights and improving appeal mechanisms, in collaboration with the unions.

  • Validation of migrants’ competences and education titles. There seems to be little investment at city level in tools to validate migrant competencies and diplomas. This is understandable in a context, where the demand for skilled jobs is low. However, a lack of perspective to move towards a position that is aligned with the level of migrants’ competences and qualifications might negatively impact the motivation of newcomers to fully integrate in Italian society and could be an incentive to move on to another EU country. Some innovative municipal experiences with regard to competency assessment (Amsterdam, Berlin) and facilitation of qualification validation (Gothenburg) can be of interest to Rome.

  • Awareness raising on access to health systems. A complete regional (Lazio) legal framework for migrant health policies (see page 59) has guaranteed a full access to healthcare for regular and irregular migrants. This legal framework of social and health issues made institutions respond with relevant policies and actions, guaranteeing migrants a better quality of life. The third sector played a key role in advocating for migrant health-related issues during the formulation of the legal framework, providing local authorities with important insights on migrants’ health issues at local level. In addition to adapted services in the public health systems, 15 clinics in Rome, which are run by the region (ASL), offer services for welcoming migrants as well as a specialised clinic, San Gallicano, which offers integrated care for migrants. Specialised integrated support for victims of violence and torture is provided in SA.MI.FO. (Salute Migranti Forzati - Forced Migrant Health). However, administrative obstacles to access the national healthcare system persist, and migrants often lack information about their rights to access health services or fear to do so, when they are irregular. Thus, further efforts are still needed to fill the gap between the right to access healthcare and exercising this right.

Best practices that could be replicated

  • SPRAR, a protection system that encourages multi-level as well as local multi-stakeholder coordination. The reception system for asylum seekers and refugees – as described from page 41 – is largely managed by NGOs through either a national-local-NGOs co-ordination mechanism (the SPRAR network), or a national-NGOs mechanism without local authorities’ involvement (CAS). In Rome, the SPRAR system strengthened horizontal collaboration between the municipality, the third-sector and NGOs with significant expertise in reception of newcomers. It also contributed to improving vertical co-ordination: reception solutions are selected by the municipality according to the capacity and expertise of the local stakeholders, through a transparent process. Management standards, monitoring and funding are guaranteed by the national level. In June 2016, approximately 7 400 asylum seekers and refugees were estimated to be hosted in the Metropolitan City of Rome. Between 2014 and 2016, 55 SPRAR centres existed in the city of Rome (see page 41). Lately, the city has improved the transparency of the selection process and contract management with the entities in charge of the structures following the guidance of the national anti-corruption authority. Since the approval of the Security Decree in November 2018, some provisions of the national reception system have undergone substantial changes, whose implications are not reflected in this case study at the moment of the publication (March 2019) .

  • Innovative housing experience for recognised refugees. Semi-autonomous homes (see page 47) were built in response to the critical juncture, when recognised refugees leave the reception system (6-12 months after recognition) and have to find their place in society on their own. Some refugees find shelter in the semi-autonomous residencies that several NGOs and faith-based organisations have set up since 2015. Building on their experience in receiving vulnerable migrants, these organisations opened homes, where refugees have to contribute with a monthly fee. Refugees can stay in these houses for six extra months, during which social workers orient them toward municipal and other local services in the process of finding a house and a job. One of the objectives is to create links with the neighbourhood, helping the newcomers build their social capital but also defeating prejudices of local communities and stereotypes about the privileged treatment that refugees receive. Unfortunately, these houses only host a very small number of refugees, while many others end up living in squats and other spontaneous settlements. A more systematic approach to temporary housing could be inspired by the Municipality of Stockholm which has built since 2015 350 modular units to ensure the transition for recognised refugees, until they find a permanent accommodation. During up to five years they can live in modular houses paying a monthly fee.

  • Proactive co-ordination and experience-sharing mechanisms among non-state actors in Rome, active in integration-related matters. Good examples are the Network Scuolemigranti (see page 52) and the “Comunità di Ospitalità” (see page 47). These networks establish a direct dialogue with the municipality of Rome that can help them find spaces and sometimes other institutional actors can delegate to them some activities (e.g. collaboration between public schools and Scuolemigranti).

  • Mechanisms to ensure access to services to the most marginalised groups. To make sure that “marginalised” people (including migrants, refugees and irregular migrants living in spontaneous settlements) can ask for municipal residence registration – and thus access the national health system – the municipality of Rome gives them a fake address in “Via Modesta Valenti”, thus providing them with a temporary residence.

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