The Italian government recently passed a decree which, if approved by parliament, will ease the strict immigration policies that were approved by the previous conservative government.
The new regulations would cut the red tape involved in getting a residence permit, remove annual immigration quotas which are set by the government according to labor market needs, and reform Italy's detention centers where illegal immigrants are detained before deportation.
Also included would be a system to speed the approval of highly skilled migrants such as nurses and technical experts. Artists, home assistants and cleaners would also be fast-tracked.
According to the authors of the decree, Interior Minister Giuliano Amato and Social Solidarity Minister Paolo Ferrero, the new decree would not contribute to a rise in illegal immigration but would make it easier for legal migrant workers to find employment in Italy.
"Current laws make it hard even for managers to get a permit. The decree controls more the categories of immigrants and the procedures to make them enter," Amato said.
The new reforms would allow foreigners who are sponsored by a private citizen or an institution to enter the country without already having a job. Current immigration requirements state a foreigner must have work before entering the country and receiving a work permit.
Opposition parties are not happy with the new decree. According to Isabella Bertolini, leader of the largest opposition party Forza Italia, the new decree would "open the door to all foreigners who will be able to enter Italy without a job."
As for the controversial detention centers, the new decree would close some of them and stricter regulations would be implemented for those that remain. Human rights groups have complained that the detention centers force illegal immigrants to live in inhumane conditions. Journalists would be allowed to visit the detention centers; something not allowed under current regulations.
It is estimated that three million legal immigrants live and work in Italy. Estimates on illegal immigrant numbers vary widely, but are guessed at around one million.
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