Italian agricultural employers blackmail undocumented workers for legal papers

From June 1st, Italy launched a program to help integrate undocumented agricultural workers into the Italian system with permits and legal papers. The aim was to stop the criminal and exploitative practices of some employers.

Unfortunately it has proved to be unsustainable as corrupt employers blackmail potential employees with fees from €1000 to as much as €5000 demanded to file the necessary papers to legalize the workers into the state system.

The decree was to grant permits to at as many as 200,000 undocumented migrants working in agriculture. Mainly Eastern Europe workers trying to earn a living for themselves and their families seeking legal status to avoid exploitation.

The new measure has been prolonged to mid August as due to the fraud and blackmail attempts of unscrupulous employers, applications for legal status have been lower than expected.

Teresa Bellanova, Italy’s agriculture minister said “those who deem the measure to be a failure are either in bad faith or don’t really know what they are talking about. She said applications were growing by 2,000 on a daily basis. Clearly, those who see it as a flop do not find the ghettos [of agricultural workers] scandalous and intolerable, neither the enslavement nor the sexual abuses that are committed in the situation of informality and exploitation. I never thought this measure was perfect, nor hidden the need to extend it to other sectors or apply a larger time window. But the results speak for themselves.”

There have been approximately 123,000 applications received, but 80% of these are from domestic workers.

Employers can declare a previous work relationship or the intention of starting a new one with the undocumented worker following the compilation of a form and the payment of a €500 fee. But income capacities required for the stipulation of contracts, around €20,000 to employ domestic workers and €30,000 in the agricultural sector, are making it especially hard for farmers to legalize the status of multiple seasonal employees, experts say. The second option allows undocumented workers, whose residency papers expired after October 31, 2019 and are not in the process of being revamped, to apply directly to a six-month regularization. They do so by demonstrating that they’ve legally worked as domestic workers or in the agricultural sector in the past. Still, only an extremely limited number of undocumented migrants meet these prerequisites.

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