WRITTEN BY: Gabriele Restelli
This policy paper provides a critical analysis of the use of restrictive entry and asylum regulation as a migration management tool, using Italy as a case study. It proposes that such restrictions, rather than deterring irregular migration, tend to push more people into irregularity. While the outsourcing, or “externalization” of border controls, coupled with cooperation with third countries such as Libya, may have contributed to the recent drop in sea arrivals, migration literature and evidence from the Central Mediterranean Route suggest that reducing access to legal pathways will likely have no significant effect on the number of migrants that reach Italian shores. Italy and European governments must acknowledge that this is not an effective way to combat migrant smuggling or to reduce irregular migration.
In December 2018, Italy adopted new legislation that restricts access to protection for refugees and migrants and hardens border security with the aim of deterring irregular immigration. The so called “Salvini Decree” follows similar measures taken by the Trump administration in the United States to restrict access to humanitarian protection as a way to advance an anti-migration agenda.
The legislative measure by the Italian government can be located within a broader EU preoccupation with a so-called “refugee crisis” and with immigration in general. With the launch of the European Agenda on Migration in May 2015 and the subsequent Valletta Summit, stricter entry regulations have been advocated as a tool to stem inflows of migrants and asylum seekers, while financial resources have been increasingly allocated to border control activities.
A key provision of the new Italian Security and Immigration Decree is the abolition of one of three layers of protection previously available to asylum seekers: residence permits granted on a discretionary basis for humanitarian reasons not covered by the 1951 Refugee Convention or by EU legislation. The law also introduces new restrictions on access to other types of residence permits and to related rights. While its main purported goal is to “tackle illegal immigration more effectively,” (emphasis added) it has been seen as a move primarily designed to reduce the overall number of immigrants and asylum seekers in Italy – and to deter new arrivals – through increased restrictions. It has been argued that the decree’s effectiveness will be severely hindered by practical limitations in enforcing returns. Critics have also highlighted its potentially hampering effect on integration by pushing even more people into vulnerability.
This policy paper provides a critical analysis of the use of restrictive entry and asylum regulation as a migration management tool, using Italy as a case study. It starts by providing an overview of the relevant policy background. Following sections review relevant literature on the impact of immigration policies and available empirical evidence on the effects of restrictive entry measures.
It continues by analysing data of irregular migration flows on the Central Mediterranean Route and a policy restrictiveness index for Italy. The last section concludes with some implications for policy making.
Source: Mixed Migration Centre / ReliefWeb / UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of Global Diaspora News (www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com).