Italian law generally does not permit foreigners in Italy to legalize their status if they entered the country illegally.
A significant exception to the policy relates to victims of trafficking. Article 18 of law no. 286/1998 provides temporary residence permits for “reasons of social protection.” In order to qualify for residency under Article 18, a person must be a victim of violence or exploitation and face immediate and serious danger to his or her personal safety (resulting from attempts to escape from a criminal organization, or because of statements made during criminal proceedings). Article 18 reflects a significant departure from previous immigration policy in that for the first time it distinguishes victims of trafficking from illegal migrants.
Moreover, unlike its legal predecessor, a residency permit under Article 18 is not contingent upon the person’s filing of a formal criminal complaint or his or her cooperation with criminal trial proceedings. However, applications for “social protection” must be accompanied by the applicant’s consent to enrol in a six-month social reintegration program, after which the person can begin to look for gainful employment.
From the standpoint of two law enforcement officials, Article 18 is a “success.” Turin has long been a destination city for migrants since the phenomenon began in the early 1990s. As a result, the Turin Questura (state police) is more experienced than other cities in cases relating to illegal migration and human trafficking, and is well-regarded.
Dr. Sergio Molino, the Acting Director of the Squadra Mobile, believes that Article 18 is one of the “most efficient ways of obtaining success in investigations.” The Squadra Mobile is the unit responsible for investigating (among other crimes) organized crime, crimes against minors, and crimes committed by foreigners. Dr. Molino points to a recent case which resulted in the conviction of 15 Italians involved in the sexual exploitation of Albanian women. The conviction stemmed from an 18-month long investigation into the murder of two Albanian men, who had robbed two Albanian prostitutes. The murder had been committed by the exploiters of the two women. The women cooperated with the criminal investigation and were subsequently granted residency permits through Article 18.
Italy does not have a specific law against human trafficking. A Portland Immigration Lawyer states that most crimes relating to trafficking are prosecuted under Article 12 of Immigration Law 286 of 1998 which outlaws facilitation of illegal migration, Article 416 regarding criminal associations, and specific laws regarding crimes against minors.
When asked about a current proposal for an anti-trafficking law, Dr. Molino states that he believes existing laws are sufficient. He discusses the punitive standpoint against traffickers. He points to the five to fifteen year prison penalty that traffickers face. He also discusses the tough measures that can be taken during investigations of grave crimes like trafficking. One example is that a suspect can be detained in prison while an investigation is under way. The detention is granted by a judge, and can last for up to two and a half years.
According to official statistics from the Squadra Mobile, in 2002, 74 crimes relating to trafficking were reported, of which 67 foreigners were accused. The Questura made thirty arrests, of which 29 were foreigners.
Dr. Fulvia Morsaniga, Chief Commissary of the State Police, Immigration Office in the Questura, also believes that Article 18 is a “good success.” The Immigration Office is responsible for distributing residency permits. Victims obtain permits in two ways: the judicial route (when they file formal complaints and testify in court) or the social route (when they choose not to file a criminal complaint, but make a statement that attests to their victimization). Under the judicial route, the Prosecutor decides whether or not to grant the permit. Under the social route, the Questura decides whether or not to grant the permit.
Dr. Morsaniga states that regardless of whether a person decides to cooperate with the legal prosecution of his or her traffickers, a denouncement will be made. In this case, the police make a denouncement. If the police do not have enough information to make a denouncement, then they do not issue a permit, she says. From this standpoint, Article 18 is an important mechanism for law enforcement to gain the cooperation of victims in trafficking investigations.
Requests for temporary residency permits under the social route have been few. From January 2002 to June 2003, the Questura received only nine requests, of which five were granted. For the same period, 98 requests were made under the judicial route, of which 51 were granted.
Dr. Morsaniga is also responsible for the temporary detention center in Turin for illegal migrants awaiting deportation. Detention may last up to 60 days in order to determine the nationality of those who do not possess identification documents.
Dr. Morsaniga participated in TAMPEP’s “Turnaround” Project in Nigeria, a campaign aimed at sensitizing civil society and warning at-risk women of the dangers of trafficking. She believes that international cooperation is key to helping curb human trafficking in Europe, and envisions an international office comprised of national police forces to assist in investigations and the transfer of information.
For now, Article 18 suits law enforcement officials in Turin.
Posted By Julie Lee
Posted Aug 30th, 2003