Thousands of undocumented migrants in Italy will now be allowed to apply to temporarily stay and work in Italy under an amnesty announced as the country unveiled a $59.6bn stimulus package to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus. After weeks of negotiations marked by political infighting and resignation threats, the parties in Italy’s coalition government finally reached an agreement on Wednesday to approve provisional changes to permits for farm workers and home carers. Italy’s Interior Ministry spokesman, Dino Martirano, in an interview with Aljazeera foreign labourers in the agricultural and domestic working sector who have been without a valid residency permit since November and according to the decree unveiled on Wednesday, the new residency permits will be valid for six months.
The changes also seek to legalise irregular work in farms and homes. Martinaro said employers who have irregularly hired either foreign or Italian workers in these sectors would also able to apply to regulate their staff by stipulating a fixed-term employment contract. The amnesty was pushed by agriculture associations across Italy looking for staffing to fill the gap left by at least 200,000 seasonal labourers, mostly from Eastern European countries, who are stuck in their countries due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Italy is facing the risk or losing 25% of its agricultural harvest.
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The regularisation could also help improve conditions for up to 180,000 people living in low income areas at a time when the public health emergency is not anywhere near an end. Activists have long warned that the informal settlements housing irregular workers lacked access to running water and sanitation and risked becoming coronavirus hotspots. The temporary nature of the amnesty is still a debate among human rights activists claiming that it just serves as a patch which is means to give priority to production over dignity. The question of when the permit runs out migrants in Italy looms in the air for everyone.