Reportage. A new report from Fondazione Migrantes shows how Italians in Germany or Britain are just like the migrants arriving in Lampedusa — with a crucial difference.

Labor exploitation follows Italians abroad: report

Different country, same precarity. Of the 124,076 people who left Italy last year, 49,000 (39 percent) are aged between 18 and 34, and a quarter are between 35 and 49. In just a year, the number of “expats” in these age groups has increased by over 9,000 and 3,500, respectively.

The reasons are described in the 2017 “Italiani nel mondo” (Italians in the World) report, presented this week by the Fondazione Migrantes. The predominant causes seem to be the unsustainable socio-economic conditions in post-Jobs Act Italy, a country built on informal and undeclared work, where 85 percent of new hires are short-term and very-short-term (according to data provided by the INPS).

This involves a first type of mobility: economic.

It is also called “forced mobility,” and mostly involves people with low education and working low-skilled jobs. And not all of them are young: 9.7 percent of the 124,000 who have emigrated are between 50 and 64 years old, left unemployed and with enormous difficulties finding work and supporting their family. “It is these people,” said Fr. Giovanni De Robertis, head of the Fondazione Migrantes, “who, once they arrive in the destination country, are exploited to the very limits of human endurance.” In London, for instance, where “every month an Italian commits suicide.” And it should not be surprising that these people are in fact “exploited by other Italians.”

These facts, true also for other European capitals that are destinations of economic migration for Italians, should be enough to demolish at least one myth that has been built up in recent years: It’s not just the “brains,” or university researchers, who go abroad. And it’s not a paradise for anyone.

Sometimes hell is other people who speak the same language as you. It can happen to anyone, and it also happens to Italians.

Then there is also “mobility by choice.” This is how De Robertis described it: in order to gain experience, to meet people, to plan a life lived “not in a traditional way.”

There is the mobility of cultural and knowledge work, which the jingoistic rhetoric of victimhood calls “brain drain,” topped up with references to “human capital” which is supposed to be “an asset to the nation.”

There are also the “citizens of the world,” young girls and boys drawn by major centers such as Berlin, Barcelona and Paris. “Faced with a situation in which there are more difficulties in making a path for oneself, these young people seek solutions elsewhere,” said the Secretary General of the CEI, Nunzio Galantino.

Emigration can also be an existential project, bringing together the young, the more mature, and parents over 65 accompanying their children (5.2 percent of cases). In these cases, the move is not individual, but involves the complete reordering of the life of an extended household.

The Fondazione Migrantes report can help us finally understand that Italians are economic migrants as well, just like those who arrive on our shores from Africa. With one crucial difference: Italians are part of a state that is accepted by the consensus of the ruled, and its citizens are granted free movement. But this is not something granted to those others, and they end up in a Libyan camp.

Borders nowadays are in movement between two poles: those who circulate capital and those who are moved by it in turn. In between there is a wide middle ground where different types of workforce mobility overlap, all of them subject, both in the destination country and in that of departure, to that which the French philosopher Etienne Balibar has called “differential inclusion.” This movement finds itself hemmed in more and more by a “policy of walls.”

The majority of new migrants are men (55.5 percent), and unmarried (and of legal marrying age) are 62.4 percent of all cases. Another surprising fact: The regions they mostly originate from are unexpected, at least if we heed the rhetoric that distinguishes between a “developed” North Italy and a “backwards” South: Lombardy is in the lead with nearly 23,000 departures in 2016, followed by Veneto with 11,611. Third is Sicily (11,501), followed by Lazio (11,114) and Piedmont (9,022).

Migrants do start off from big cities: Rome, Milan, Turin and Naples. And even from regional centers like Brescia (3,000 departures), as well as from provinces such as Varese: 2,289.

The process of emigration is a structural one. According to the Fondazione Migrantes report, it has grown steadily over the last 10 years. In 2006, there were just over three million Italians living abroad, whereas today there are 4,973,000, representing 8.2 percent of the more than 60.5 million residents of Italy.

Germany is the preferred destination, although Brexit England is also breaking records in this regard: In 2016, there were 24,771 more Italians registered at the AIRE (Registry of Italians Resident Abroad) as living there.

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