Planning in the Dark: the Evolution of
Italian Immigration Control1
Since the 1980s, the countries in Southern Europe (and Germany) have received most of the immigration into Western Europe (King and Rybaczuk 1993: 177). Former emigration countries have rapidly and unexpectedly been converted into receiving countries. These new immigration countries are characterized by high levels of official unemployment and by a significant shadow economy. Obviously their experience of immigration is sharply different from the traditional Western European targets of international migration (Freeman 1995). Can we say the same about their systems of immigration control?
In the analysis of scholars and decision-makers alike, it is commonly taken for granted that the border control of southern European countries is in a permanent state of crisis. Even Italians subscribe to the fact that the Italian system of external control is structurally weak and fragmentary (Bolaffi 1996) and that authorities show a widespread tolerance, if not even a benign attitude, toward irregular migrants (Calavita 1994; Zincone 1994). According to this vision – for which frequent amnesty programmes provide empirical evidence – Italy is a true heaven for clandestine immigrants and the main entry door for all those who want to settle in other European countries.
It may be argued, however, that this vision is more a product of stereotypical reactions than of a sustained analysis. As a matter of fact, the most noticeable feature of the evolution of Italian migratory policy is the rapidity with which Italian authorities (and public opinion, generally) have adopted a stop-and-contain vision similar, and openly related, to the approach____________________