(THE SUN) – Italy will give 600,000 illegal migrants the right to stay in the country as they have been providing essential work during the coronavirus crisis.
Unregistered migrants have been picking crops and caring for the elderly across the country, all while risking being arrested if caught by the police.
The Government is providing six-month permits to the migrants which won’t give them the right to vote but will be renewable.
Peppe Provenzano, minister for the south of Italy, said: “The food on our table comes from these fields. Now we must hand over those rights which have been denied to those who work in them.”
The permits were proposed by the agricultural minister Teresa Bellanova.
The measure could be inserted into a temporary government decree with immediate effect but will be voted on in parliament after 60 days, according to The Times.
Bellanova said that forcing migrants to hide could mean outbreaks of the disease go unchecked.
The Pope also seemed to back the message yesterday when he condemned the “harsh exploitation” of migrant farmworkers in Italy.
He said: “May the crisis give us the opportunity to make the dignity of the person and of work the center of our concern.”
There are also practical advantages to the new measure as 100,000 Romanian pickers who usually travel to Italy every year cannot fly over due to coronavirus travel bans.
The measure would also legalize around 100,000 illegal migrants who work as home carers.
Former Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini – now in opposition – claimed the government was more concerned with the rights of migrants than jobless Italians.
Bellanova threatened to resign if the measure was blocked.
Meanwhile, in Greece, patrols have been stepped up by the country’s coastguard, air force and navy, a defense official said.
The move follows intelligence reports and satellite imagery showing refugee groups being moved from remote inland areas to Turkey’s western shores, The Times reports.
These areas have traditionally used by traffickers to smuggle people to remote Greek islands just a few miles away.