Italy's Foreign Aid
On October 30, 2021, Italy will host the G20 summit, the annual economic forum on international cooperation and financial stability. In addition to policy coordination between the world’s major, advanced and emerging economies in efforts to achieve global economic growth, the summit also focuses on development programs in impoverished countries. A closer look at Italy’s foreign aid shows the extent to which Italy helps the world’s most vulnerable people.

Italy’s Foreign Aid

According to U.N. standards, Italy is not contributing enough to foreign aid. Italy is the 10th-largest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) donor for the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). The country spent $4.2 billion on official development assistance in 2020. However, this represents only 0.22% of the country’s gross national income. It falls below the U.N. target of 0.7% as well as the DAC average of 0.32%.

Current Fund Allocation

Bilateral aid consists of grants that go to countries without a multilateral intermediary. Italy dedicates 31.1% of its bilateral aid to hosting refugees in donor countries. The country was on track to reach the U.N.’s official development assistance (ODA) target up until 2017. It then started to decrease funding as in-country refugee costs decreased by 76% from 2017 to 2019.

Furthermore, along with many other countries in the European Union, much of Italy’s foreign aid has gone toward border control instead of basic services such as water, food and education. These services are key elements that help fight poverty and decrease the likelihood of forced migration or the need for border control. A June 2019 Instituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) report found that the country lacks a consistent strategy surrounding development cooperation, largely due to Italy’s fixation on migration and its opportunistic and transactional approach to foreign policy.

Bilateral vs. Multilateral

Although it seems Italy could be doing more to help the world’s impoverished, it is important to note that most of its official development assistance (62%) goes to multilateral institutions. This means that the government authorizes non-governmental organizations (NGOs), think tanks and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank Group to allocate foreign aid accordingly. While some multilateral groups can have political leanings, NGOs and think tanks tend to operate apolitically. This minimizes the risk that Italy’s foreign aid only serves to reinforce political ambitions or national security through distribution.

For example, through Italy’s earmarked contribution of more than $82 million to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UNDP considers Italy a “vital partner in their mission to end extreme poverty” and is helping the country operationalize its G7 commitments through the Africa Centre for Sustainable Development in Rome. Once established, the goal of the Centre is to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa by advocating the best practices regarding food security, access to water and clean energy.

Italy in the G20

As host of the G20 economic forum, Italy has an important position among other members in leading discussions on development and poverty. In fact, in a telephone conversation with the European commissioner for international partnerships, Emanuela Del Re, the Italian vice minister of foreign affairs, asserted that the G20 could be “the relevant international forum to define measures to ensure that vulnerable countries are part of the socio-economic recovery.”

While Italy should be contributing more toward its foreign aid as a whole, its commitment to multilateral cooperation is a promising step in alienating aid from internal politics. Furthermore, by prioritizing the management of the pandemic in economically developing countries in the G20, Italy could reevaluate its interest in migration as a central development issue and create the opportunity for a more balanced allocation of foreign aid.

– Annarosa Zampaglione
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in San MarinoSan Marino is a small Southern European state surrounded by Italy. Despite having a small population of just 33,000 people and a mountainside location, the country is surprisingly one of the wealthiest in the world based on GDP per capita. San Marino acquires most of its wealth from tourism and the sale of local goods. However, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly destroyed the country’s tourism industry. The campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino will allow the economy to recover as industries begin to reopen, igniting economic activity.

The Impact of COVID-19

In terms of the poverty rate in San Marino, minimal data exists. But, like the rest of the world, San Marino’s economy has also experienced adverse impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, tourism rates decreased due to stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions. Before the pandemic, the small country averaged around two million tourists in 2019, a clear indication of the significant economic role of the tourism sector. With regard to COVID-19 rates, San Marino has confirmed 5,092 cases and 90 deaths. The campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino has been successful due to small population numbers and a steady supply of vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccinations in San Marino

All of San Marino’s people have either been partially or completely vaccinated against COVID-19. The country administered mostly Sputnik V vaccines after signing a deal with Russia. Starting May 17, 2021, San Marino is offering a COVID-19 vaccine holiday package to boost tourism with an incentive. The holiday package allows non-residents access to vaccines in San Marino by booking accommodation for a certain duration at one of 19 hotels.

“The initiative is open only to those coming from countries that Italy has opened up to for tourism.” Two separately administered Sputnik V doses are available at a cost of €50. To receive the second dose of the vaccine, tourists must return to the country and stay in a hotel for at least three days. This way, San Marino makes up for its loss of tourism revenue while helping to eradicate the virus with vaccines.

The Road to Recovery

More than 66% of the population has been fully vaccinated through the campaign for COVID-19 vaccinations in San Marino. With no patients hospitalized for COVID-19, the country is effectively controlling its COVID-19 infections. With an adequate vaccine supply to cover its population, San Marino has found an innovative way to put the vaccine surplus to good use while boosting the tourism industry. The COVID-19 vaccination holiday package in San Marino is a unique solution to ignite economic recovery in the country. The offer has caught the attention of tourists who trust in the efficacy of the Sputnik V vaccine. Through innovative solutions, San Marino is finding creative  ways to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic

– Matt Orth
Photo: Flickr

Italy's Pandemic Recovery
Italy quickly became a coronavirus hot spot at the pandemic’s onset, and its healthcare system and economy have struggled ever since. In early 2021, the Italian government announced a €235 billion Resilience and Recovery Plan (RRP) that will launch several economic initiatives over the next five years. Prime Minister Mario Draghi seeks to emphasize institutional reform and GDP growth in Italy’s pandemic recovery process.

How Italy Handled the COVID-19 Pandemic

Italy has documented more than 4 million COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. It has confirmed more than 127,000 deaths as of July 6, 2021. The pandemic hit Northern Italy the hardest and fastest, with nearly 80% of COVID-related deaths coming from the northern region in the first four months of the pandemic.

Italy’s unemployment rate rose from 9.2% in 2020 to 10.2% in 2021, with youth disproportionately affected. In the regions of Sicily, Calabria and Campania, youth unemployment climbed to 46%. Additionally, 45% of Italians agreed that the pandemic has impacted their personal income.

A four-level color-coded system sorts locations in Italy by infection risk. White and yellow areas have “total freedom, by day and night,” representing a lower risk of coronavirus infection. Orange represents a higher risk, and red represents an extreme risk. Orange and red regions observe a curfew between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. As of June 28, 2021, all regions are white areas. It is no longer mandatory to wear a mask outdoors, but the country is suggesting that people continue carrying one and observe safe social distancing rules.

Italy’s Plans for Tourism

Tourism is a vital component of the Italian GDP, and in just one year, the country saw a 60% drop in tourists due to COVID-19. Italy estimates a loss of around €120.6 billion in tourism revenue for 2020, and so far, 2021 has also been a lackluster year for tourism.

Italy’s pandemic recovery process includes once again allowing foreign visitors. In June 2021, the country opened to tourism from most European countries and a few others as well. Visitors from the U.S., Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates who arrive on COVID-tested flights can also enter the country. All tourists from outside the European Union, Israel or on COVID-tested flights must quarantine for 14 days and provide a negative COVID-19 test. However, most tourist attractions, including beaches, theaters and museums, are open to the public at limited capacity.

Italy’s Economic Recovery Plan

Draghi continues to work with the E.U. to secure aid for Italian citizens. As a result, Italy will receive the largest share of the E.U.’s €705 billion recovery fund because of the economic strain the pandemic placed on the country. The plan will offer environmentally conscious solutions for economic expansion.

The Italian government will allocate €18.5 billion to hospitals to reduce pressure on the healthcare system. The RRP will help hospitals digitize and will invest in “community hospitals” for patients not needing extensive care. It will also set aside €7 billion to strengthen home care. All these plans are efforts to relieve hospitals overwhelmed with patients.

Forty percent of the RRP is for green-related investments. A study by Scientific Reports found that Italy’s air pollution played a larger role in spreading the pandemic than population density, so Italy plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. The RRP will also fund construction, which will offer many citizens job opportunities. The construction market is estimated to grow 3.5% in the COVID-19 recovery process.

Many Italians are looking forward to life returning to normal. Italy’s pandemic recovery plan offers hope that the country will succeed in its economic expansion and infrastructure development.

Camdyn Knox
Photo: Flickr

Migrants in ItalyIllegal immigration to Italy had been dropping significantly in recent years. The numbers went down from 181,000 in 2016 to 11,500 in 2019. However, in 2020, the number of migrants who landed in Italy by boat had risen by roughly 148%. This increase in numbers reignited negative attitudes toward immigration, which in the past had led to large-scale protests that called for stricter and more intensive migrant laws. In 2014, a mere 3% of people from a 999-person survey were bothered by migrants in Italy, however, by 2017, that number rose to 35% of those interviewed. The additional strain of COVID-19 increased the negative views already present, despite government insistence that migrants were but a smaller portion of the problem.

Immigration Policy in Italy

During the late 2010s, it was found that many in the Italian government were in favor of pushing for more emphasis on a migration-focused dialogue among the EU member states. The Italian government hoped that by communicating more with the countries of origin, it would be able to support migrants in a more humane manner that would give more control over the number of people on Italian land. The EU accepted several suggestions put forth by the non-paper called the Migration Contact. Some of these recommendations include urging greater investments in border control and security while also reaching out to readmission and resettlement programs to improve upon local asylum systems. This would give migrants better opportunities to return home should they be unable to stay or attain citizenship in Italy.

Slow Yet Steady Progress

Although the anti-immigration policies were strict, late 2020 and early 2021 have seen a slow but steady change to improve the laws that cracked down on those seeking asylum and any who tried to help them. The new legislation is currently taking steps to make it easier for migrants to become citizens and withdrawing orders given to coastal guards to harass those attempting to come ashore. One such action would be the reintroduction of special protection permits. This would be given to those who have relations with established Italian citizens, those with serious health issues (mental and physical) and people who do not meet asylum requirements but are escaping inhumane treatment in their homelands.

Current Migrant Policies

The political view toward immigration and migrants was originally negative, however, many in the government did not want to withdraw the extended helping hand from those who needed it. Italy’s current migrant laws have designated funds for integration policies, funding for language courses as well as intercultural activities, housing and educational purposes. The newer policies also want to focus on the risks involved when migrants come to Italy. This includes personal preferences such as refusing regular fingerprint collection, which used to lead to an immediate rejection of any requests for asylum.

Organizations Helping Migrants and Refugees in Italy

Organizations within Italy are working to provide the support that the government has not yet granted to refugees. Groups such as Choose Love, Donne di Benin City and Baobab Experience work within Rome and Palermo to ensure that migrants receive accommodation, food and clothing. The organizations also offer legal assistance so that individuals have better chances of gaining citizenship.

Choose Love has reached more than one million people through more than 120 projects in Italy and 14 other countries. These organizations help to fulfill the essential needs of migrants in Italy who are unable to return to their homelands and have no other means of support.

Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

 

A Surprising Upside to COVID-19
Although the COVID-19 pandemic yielded many medical devastations, many young doctors fast-tracked into residencies to answer the demand for caregivers and essential workers, showing the surprising upside to COVID-19. This succeeded in easing the burden on the medical community. While COVID-19 cases are significant, young doctors are providing aid in places such as the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Italy.

The UK

Across the United Kingdom, the March 2020 events immediately implored the Medical Schools Council (MSC) to expedite qualifications for final year medical students solely based on their clinical examinations. This fast-tracked those in their last year of medical school by unburdening them from having to work with patients in a hospital setting – something that became nearly impossible during the first stages of the pandemic due to a lack of information about the spread of the disease. A BMC Medical Education study found that almost 40% of students had their Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) canceled, allowing some students to graduate early and join the workforce.

Over the past 12 months, the United Kingdom endured over 4 million cases and over 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. The Mirror reported on January 20, 2021, that over 50,000 NHS staff members have been sick with COVID-19 and around 800 have died from the virus. The government is trying to respond quickly, not only allowing medical students to wave clinical examinations in some cases but also reconsider whether or not to fast-track the registrations of refugee doctors with foreign degrees. Anna Jones of RefuAid said to the Guardian, “We have 230 doctors who are fully qualified in their own countries. Most have many years of experience as doctors.”

The latter program offers a pathway out of poverty for refugees and immigrants in their new countries. The former has given young people the opportunity to help the global cause in a profound way. Meanwhile, the medical field gave more people of diverse backgrounds more opportunities, which is another surprising upside to COVID-19.

The Czech Republic

In Eastern Europe, medical schools had similar ideas. Many university students took it upon themselves to volunteer at overworked hospitals to help fatigued systems on the verge of collapse.  Students received important medical responsibilities in clinics and administrative roles. Aleksi Šedo, dean of the First Faculty of Medicine at Charles University in Prague, stated, “It’s an honor for our faculty that its students have spontaneously created an initiative to help our health care and, more broadly, the entire society.”

Perhaps another surprising upside to the COVID-19 pandemic is the opportunity for young people to stand out and receive recognition. Although, the Czech Republic obtained praise for how it responded to the pandemic, the second wave in October 2020 hit it hard, resulting in over 15,000 new cases per day. Additionally, just under 3,000 people died in the country from March to September. Moreover, more recent months have yielded a sharp increase, with the death toll now tracking upwards of 20,000.

Only 3.4% of the Czech population is at risk of poverty but there is a strong link between education and poverty in the country. This corroborates the trend of fast-tracking doctors (or in this case, the doctors taking control of fast-tracking themselves through volunteering) as a method of rising out of poverty. The Czech Republic is welcoming young doctors with first-hand pandemic experience into its qualified and registered ranks.

Italy

One of the surprising upsides of COVID-19 comes from Italy and its ‘Cure Italy’ campaign, which emerged during the first days of the pandemic. The whole world was horrified by Italy’s plight as Italy accounted for 10,000 of the first 30,000 reported COVID-19 deaths. The country expedited the process by “cutting the hospital exam and increasing the number of doctors being recruited.” This gave many young doctors their first professional job experience and saved them the standard practice of many Italian medical school graduates: work abroad.

For Italians like Chiara Bonini, Samin Sedghi Zadeh and Stefania Pini, the pandemic gave them a much appreciated if not worrisome opportunity to help in the northern regions when their neighbors needed it. Bonini was in the process of studying for her final exams when the government began to change the process and invited many up north. She jumped at the chance. Zadeh left a job as a general practitioner to help in the face of a crisis. He hopes this will be a call to action regarding the bolstering of health networks. Meanwhile, Pini transferred back to Italy in order to ease the burden after working in Switzerland’s hospitals. She thinks this might be an opportunity to return to work in her home country. One surprising upside to COVID-19 for Italian doctors has been young medical professionals the opportunity to return to Italy.

One Year Milestone

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has reached its one-year milestone, one can process its effects on health and poverty a little more clearly. The study of medicine has long been one way for those in poverty to change their socioeconomic status and a surprising upside to COVID-19 has been its effects on young and foreign doctors in the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and Italy. From inviting those in their final year of school to be fully qualified without traditional clinical tests, passing doctors with qualifications from other countries into the health system and bringing doctors back home to fight the disease ravaging their communities, the novel coronavirus has provided glimmers of hope for those in the medical community: it has presented opportunities for essential workers.

Spencer Daniels
Photo: Flickr

INTERSOS Response to COVID-19INTERSOS is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that responds to humanitarian emergencies in Italy and 20 other countries around the world. The organization works on the frontlines of disaster zones, providing basic needs such as medical care, clean water, shelter and food.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been especially active in Italy by providing relief to those in need. The INTERSOS response to COVID-19 in Italy focuses on Rome and the surrounding region, particularly on homeless people and other vulnerable groups.

Homelessness During the Pandemic

There are around 8,000 homeless people in Rome and about 3,000 of them do not have a means of shelter. According to the coordinator for homeless outreach at the Catholic charity, Sant’Egidio, shelters have reduced occupancy due to COVID-19 restrictions. This has been particularly challenging during the winter months when temperatures can drop below zero degrees. From November 2020 to January 2021, 12 people died from the cold on Rome’s streets.

Normally, the subway stations in Rome close at night, but, 40,000 people signed a petition created by the community group, Nonna Roma, to leave the metro open. This would give people a safe place to sleep at night. Charities and organizations such as Nonna Roma and Sant’Egidio are working to provide food and shelter to the increasing number of people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. These organizations fear that the number of vulnerable people will rise as the expiration dates of protective tenant policies, such as a ban on evictions, looms.

The INTERSOS Response

In March 2020, INTERSOS recognized the lack of healthcare and basic necessities for the homeless in Rome. The organization quickly oriented its work to provide COVID-19 specific resources. This includes education about the virus, information about COVID-19 precautions and general healthcare assistance. It continued to do so since the second wave of infections in October 2020. The INTERSOS response to COVID-19 addresses accessibility, with mobile healthcare teams visiting vulnerable populations directly at informal housing settlements throughout Rome. These mobile teams provide as much assistance as possible, on-site. If the teams do not have the resources themselves, the teams direct people to relevant social or healthcare programs in the city.

INTERSOS Mobile Team

A UNICEF report from April 2020 explains a typical day for the INTERSOS mobile healthcare team. The day UNICEF reports on, the team visits an informal settlement of 500 residents on the outskirts of Rome. The living conditions are cramped as the structure was not intended for the purpose of housing families. These conditions put people at high risk of contracting COVID-19. The INTERSOS team conducts health screenings for COVID-19 symptoms, gives lessons on hygiene and speaks with individuals and families about specific concerns.

In a typical week, INTERSOS visits three settlements in Rome and checks in on people living in Rome’s train stations. INTERSOS is vital in providing healthcare and basic necessities to those who need it most. With the assistance and dedication of INTERSOS, Italy’s most vulnerable are getting the care and resources they need to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Italy
Many know Italy to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world, with the sixth-highest life expectancy, and a low rate of preventable and treatable deaths. Everyone benefits from high-quality care and the Italian government takes measures to ensure the most vulnerable populations receive care. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Italy hard which overwhelmed the hospitals and will have lasting damage on the low-income population. Here is some information about how healthcare in Italy works for vulnerable populations.

Everyone Has Access

Healthcare in Italy is universal, meaning that while private insurance options are available, everyone qualifies for public healthcare coverage regardless of income. This covers hospital visits, preventative treatment, medications, pediatrics and all necessary medical procedures for free or a small copay. One drawback is long waiting times to receive services. Italy has greater disparities in healthcare quality between regions and income classes than the rest of the European Union, but even so, less than 6% of low-income residents have any trouble accessing services.

Mental Healthcare sets an Example for the World

  In 1978, Italy passed legislation expanding mental health services. The city of Trieste replaced its 1,200-bed mental health hospital with a network of person-centered care facilities, including:

  • Four Community Mental Health Centers housing four to eight residents each.
  • One General Hospital Psychiatric Unit with six beds for short-term emergency stays.
  • The Habilitation and Residential Service, a network of voluntary communal housing with 45 beds that works with NGOs and provides various levels of supervision and services to residents based on their needs.

Instead of just treating a mental illness, the mental healthcare system in Trieste works to integrate patients into the community so they can lead fulfilling lifestyles. Instead of police, trained psychiatrists respond to mental health emergencies. In 2017, a group of Los Angeles County officials traveled to Trieste to find that it had eliminated the need for involuntary psychiatric care, there was no mentally ill homeless population and jails were not overcrowded with those needing mental health treatment. By investing in person-centered care, Trieste was able to reduce social injustices and bring vulnerable groups back into the community.

Refugees Qualify for Healthcare

Immediately upon arrival, asylum seekers receive access to public healthcare in Italy. Some difficulties can occur in receiving care, such as language barriers or legal processes delaying healthcare qualification by several months.

Many asylum seekers are torture survivors or deal with other trauma and can be eligible for specific mental health treatments. Redattore Sociale is a Doctors Without Borders project in Rome that has dedicated itself to ensuring torture survivors from all around the world receive the comprehensive psychiatric care they need.

Pandemic Crisis

Italy had an early spike in COVID-19 cases which overwhelmed the healthcare system. Italy has the fifth-highest coronavirus deaths per capita worldwide.

The situation is especially bleak in nursing homes, where the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that half of all Italy’s COVID-19 deaths have taken place. The country’s failure to properly test, distribute personal protective equipment, isolate residents and staff experiencing symptoms and openly report infection statistics have caused high death tallies and led to lawsuits against many nursing homes by relatives and other concerned parties.

The pandemic has also hit the economy hard, with low-income families suffering the most. Lack of support from the government has forced those who lost their source of income to turn to organizations such as the European Food Bank Federation, founded in 1967, which distributes 4.2 million meals every single day through a network of charities.

Although the economy may not fully recover, COVID-19 cases have been dropping steadily since late November 2020, and with doctors starting to administer vaccinations, there is hope for the future.

Though people usually consider healthcare in Italy to be high-quality in how it provides care for vulnerable groups, it was unprepared to deal with the pandemic, devastating the aging population and low-income families. Accountability for nursing homes and aid to impoverished citizens must be part of the plan going forward, as well as more efficient central planning to deal with future emergencies.

Elise Brehob
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in ItalyAround the world, people commonly associate Italy with their favorite foods: pasta, bread and warm, baked goods. They imagine music playing on the streets and visiting the beautiful and historic sites of Rome, Naples and Florence. In their mental scenes of Italy, everything is happy and life is good. However, just like every other country, hunger in Italy results in struggles to feed all of its citizens, and more than 1.5 million people each day go without enough to eat.

The United Nations defines food security as every person having physical, social and economic access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet and sustain dietary needs for a productive and healthy life. The term “hunger” is used to describe periods in which people experience severe food insecurity where they go days without eating. This is because of the lack of money, access or other resources. Here are four facts about hunger in Italy.

Four Facts About Hunger in Italy

  1. For the past six years, hunger in Italy has maintained a steady rate of 2.5% of the population. This is a low percentage. However, Italy’s total population is 60.36 million. With this considered, 1.509 million are subject to food insecurity each day.
  2. Additionally, the average Disposable Personal Income in Italy dropped by almost six thousand euros per year. This happened after seeing a consistent rise in salaries over the past three years. Disposable personal income is the wage workers keep after taxes are taken out. As a result, workers stretch their paychecks out much more than usual and limit food expenses. In a table listed with 35 economically developed countries, Italy ranked seventh in the leading percentages of relative child poverty with a rate of 15.9%. Relative poverty is calculated by dividing a family’s disposable income by the number of people living in the residence. If the result is less than 50% of the national median income, they live in relative poverty.
  3. Furthermore, in March of 2019, the Italian government began a new welfare program for its underprivileged population. Italian citizens who qualify must be earning less than 9,360 euros per year. The national average is approximately 22,000 euros. Also, they cannot own any expensive luxury items such as boats or second homes. The welfare program has a pre-paid debit card to use for groceries, bills, medicines and other necessities. Able-bodied residents must enter a job-finding program or a training program.
  4. Also, the United Nations has a set of seventeen goals it hopes to achieve by the end of 2030. One of these goals is Zero Hunger to work toward food security for every global citizen. After decades of consistent rises in food security, things took a turn for the worse in 2015, and food security levels began to decrease again. Today, 690 million people suffer from hunger; 135 million suffer from acute hunger. The COVID-19 pandemic put so many out of work and tore apart economies. It is actively putting an estimated 130 million more people at risk of dying of acute hunger this year. The world population is rising and natural resources are depleting. As a result, we need revolutions in global agricultural systems more than ever before.

– Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Pikist

homelessness in italyItaly has a population of just over 60 million people and boasts a per-capita GDP of roughly $34,000. This makes it one of the world’s most developed countries. Further, Italy’s location in the Mediterranean and its rich, diverse cultural history make it a land of opportunity. Some of its most profitable industries include tourism, agriculture, fashion, wine, olive oil and automobiles. However, despite having such a strong economy, homelessness in Italy remains an issue. Here are seven facts about homelessness in Italy.

7 Facts about Homelessness in Italy

  1. Official statistics may undercount the number of people facing homelessness in Italy. Roughly 3.2% of the country, or 2 million people, make under $5.50 per day. Of those people, more than 50,000 are homeless. However, because these figures come from major cities, there are likely more people facing homelessness in Italy. The country counts people as homeless if they are living in a public or outdoor space, an emergency shelter or a specific accommodation for the homeless. This does not include people in jail, receiving medical care or living with family. As such, official numbers often do not reflect Roma, Travellers and Sinti people who live in subpar housing.
  2. Middle-aged people and migrants are most at risk for homelessness in Italy. Half of all homeless people are between the ages of 35 and 54. Further, Migrants make up 58% of people facing homelessness in Italy. In Milan, 90% of people living in slums are foreign-born. Similarly, in Naples and Bologna, 77% and 73% of homeless people are migrants, respectively. Between 2011 and 2014, the average duration of homelessness migrants faced went up from 1.6 to 2.2 years. This is still less than native Italians, whose duration of homelessness was 3.5 years on average.
  3. As a result of the global recession in 2008, the rate of homelessness tripled. In Italy, the loss of a stable job contributes significantly to homelessness. Additionally, the rate of economic recovery has been slow. By 2016, an estimated 3,000 more people became homeless in Italy compared to 2011. Even in 2011, one in every four families in Italy was unable to make mortgage payments. This implies an increased rate of evictions and families made newly homeless. At the same time, the unemployment rate nearly doubled from 6.7% in 2008 to 12.7% in 2014. As of 2020, estimates place it at 9.1%.
  4. Italy fares worse on homelessness than many of its E.U. neighbors. For example, Italy spends the equivalence of $12 per person on housing. The United Kingdom, in contrast, spends more than 40 times the amount Italy does. In Italy, the financial crisis led to funding cuts for housing. Additionally, only 4% of Italy’s housing stock is public, which is one-fifth of the E.U. average.
  5. Homelessness in Italy is geographical. Specifically, about 56% of all reported homeless people live in the northern part of the country. Of all northern cities and cities across Italy, Milan has the highest amount of homeless people. Estimates suggested 12,000 homeless people in Milan in 2014. Central Italy contains roughly 24% of Italy’s homeless population, while Southern Italy contains 20%. Rome and Palermo report the highest number of homeless people in their respective regions.
  6. In 2018, the Salvini Decree ended humanitarian protection for migrants not eligible for refugee status. Most people who arrived to Italy receive humanitarian protection, and 100,000 hold work permits. With protections removed, the migrants faced evictions. These occurred in parts of southern Italy.
  7. Homeless people face unique struggles as a result of COVID-19. When Italy went into a full lockdown to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, police started fining homeless people for violating lockdown, simply because they could not follow lockdown rules. Additionally, building shelters amenable to social distancing proved challenging. Many homeless people also lack information about the virus and proper personal protective equipment. Finally, obtaining food became a struggle for many people facing homelessness in Italy.

Organizations Fighting Homelessness in Italy

Several organizations are helping to fight homelessness in Italy. Baobab Experience wrote an open letter to the minister of health, Roberto Speranza. It urged for health checks for migrants, many of whom were afraid to go to hospitals due to their immigration status. The organization also pleaded with the minister to find housing options for homeless people so they would not spread the virus to anybody else.

Emergency, another NGO, established temporary housing units for homeless people, including those requiring isolation. It hired educators, social workers and health providers to assist in the operations and show them how to use PPE properly. Similarly, between 2012 and 2013, Doctors Without Borders began providing free healthcare to homeless people in Milan. The organization reported that about 70% of those seeking care were migrants, mainly from Africa and Eastern Europe.

Additionally, the Community of St. Egidio has worked with Pope Francis to help poor people and refugees. The organization offers 100 beds, hot meals, counseling, hand sanitizers and masks to homeless individuals. Another Catholic organization, Caritas Italy, has also provided food and sanitation to people facing homelessness in Italy. Regular citizens have jumped in to help as well: in Naples, residents lowered food baskets from their balconies to feed people who were on the streets.

Moving Forward

These organizations bring hope to the fight against homelessness in Italy. As the facts above illustrate, homelessness remains a serious problem in Italy, one that primarily affects marginalized groups. However, the work of NGOs and other organizations can help reduce this problem and bring Italy more in line with its E.U. neighbors in reducing homelessness.

Bryan Boggiano
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Crisis
The migrant crisis in Italy is prevalent; Italy receives more asylum seekers per year than any other European country. Since 2017, over 192,000 individuals have sought refuge in Italy by crossing the Mediterranean in informal vessels and ships organized and manned by non-governmental organizations. Many migrants who make the perilous journey from the coast of North Africa to Italy land at the small island of Lampedusa, the southernmost area of Italian territory, located just 70 miles from the coast of Tunisia.

At the peak of the crisis, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Afghanis and Libyans crossed into Europe to seek asylum. However, Italy’s strategic location near the coasts of Tunisia and Libya led to a continuous increase in attempted landings. These two locations are common debarkation points for Middle Eastern and North African migrants. According to Reuters, from August 2019 to July 2020, over 21,000 individuals successfully reached Italy’s southern shores. These figures represent an increase of 148% from the previous year.

Additionally, E.U. regulations regarding the resettlement of asylum seekers place high financial and administrative burdens on Italy. The 1990 Dublin Regulation is a law for E.U. member states which forces migrants coming to the European Union to make their application for asylum in the first country where they arrived. This legislation disproportionately affected the Italian government in comparison with its northern European neighbors.

Migrants and the 2018 Elections

The E.U.’s perceived ambivalence towards Italy’s economic burden and the peak of the European migrant crisis in 2017 created tension. These factors created a perfect storm for the victory of right-wing political leader Matteo Salvini and his Lega party. Salvini’s message on the campaign trail, that of blocking migrant arrivals in Italy and a renegotiation of ties to the European government in Brussels, struck a tone with many dissatisfied Italian voters in the north of the country where anti-immigrant sentiments remain common.

As minister of the interior, Salvini fulfilled his electoral promise, continuing his hardline position regarding the migrant crisis in Italy. During his tenure, the Lega leader utilized Italy’s military vessels to prevent ships carrying migrants from docking in the country’s ports and cut off funding for social programs that provide vital assistance and resources for newly arrived asylum seekers.

Looking Forward

The Lega-led government collapsed in 2019. The liberal government that succeeded it altered the dynamics of the Italian government’s role in the migrant crisis. Salvini heavily criticized the E.U. government for its laissez-faire approach to Italy’s economic and organizational woes during the migrant crisis. In contrast, the current Italian government is much more open to collaboration with Brussels. An agreement reached at the end of 2019 between Italy, Germany and France allowed for the relocation of migrants rescued at sea throughout the E.U., thus moving away from the controversial Dublin Regulation.

Even under the new liberal government in Rome, deportations of recently arrived migrants have continued into the present. However, the current national policy regarding asylum seekers differs from the issue’s handling under Salvini; instead of directly blocking migrant vessels and NGOs from docking in Italian ports, the government is directly lobbying with Tunisia to incentivize the North African country to control illegal migration from its borders by threatening cuts to development aid.

The economic and social catastrophe of the coronavirus pandemic accelerated the new Tunisian policy and continued deportations. The country faced an administrative breakdown during the spring and found a need to centralize government resources towards the virus. These factors led to the closure of numerous refugee facilities in southern Italy. Furthermore, the new liberal government had, for the first time, deployed military ships to stop migrants from Tunisia in order to maintain Italy’s national quarantine.

Although the country has policies in place to ensure all incoming asylum seekers are quarantined before entry, the fear of new cases being brought into the country as well as additional stress on an already damaged economy may lead to increased support for Salvini’s policies in the future.

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

One important organization lobbying for the rights of migrants seeking refuge in Italy and the E.U. is the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC primarily assists in the safe movement of asylum seekers. It organizes funding for secure ships and professional sailors to transport migrants across the Mediterranean. Furthermore, the IRC was instrumental in the development of Refugee.Info. This online site serves as an informational tool on how to apply for asylum. It also details statistics regarding the issue of migrants in Italy. Lastly, the IRC provides mental and physical health services for newly arrived migrants in the collection facilities in southern Italy. Though COVID-19 has posed many challenges to the migrant crisis in Italy, there are organizations making a difference.

Jason Beck
Photo: Wikimedia