Says Italian Ambassador Enrico Nunziata in interview with The Daily Star
As Italy has enlisted Bangladesh as one of the 30 countries eligible to send seasonal and non-seasonal workers after an eight-year long suspension, Italian authorities have urged aspirants to use legal pathways.
“If you follow legal pathways, you can make a fortune. Or else, you [will] fall prey to the traps of middlemen and frauds,” said Enrico Nunziata, Italian Ambassador to Bangladesh, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Star recently.
Once Bangladeshis will get a regular long-term stay permit and work regularly, they can take their families and eventually get Italian citizenship after 10 years of regular uninterrupted residence.
“Now that there is a new opportunity, don’t waste it. Choose the legal pathway,” he stressed.
Italy is home to some 148,000 registered Bangladeshis, while some thousand are undocumented. Under an amnesty programme, Italy regularised at least 12,746 undocumented Bangladeshis this year.
The only European country that recruits workers from Bangladesh as “seasonal” or “non-seasonal categories” had suspended this programme in 2012 as many people overstayed their terms.
The other phenomena in recent years was the illegal migration to Italy from Libya through the Mediterranean Sea. In 2017 alone, 9,000 Bangladeshis went to Italy illegally, using the sea route. That trend has now significantly come down.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during her visit to Italy in February this year, requested Italy to open the labour market for Bangladesh.
Enrico said, “We considered opening the labour market in response to Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ‘s request. It is also because there is now a Standard Operating Procedure between Bangladesh and European Union for the repatriation of undocumented migrants.”
He said seasonal workers’ visas range from three months to nine months, while non-seasonal ones are for long term residence, adding that his government has announced the recruitment 30,000 seasonal workers for now.
The Italian ambassador however said the number of Bangladeshis who can be recruited cannot be predicted since quotas are open for workers of other nationalities as well.
The deadline for the employers to apply for the foreign workers from 30 countries is December 31.
Ambassador Enrico Nunziata ruled out the involvement of middlemen or agents in the recruitment process.
There is already a big Bangladeshi community in Italy, familiar with the employers. Here, familiarity and trustworthiness are important, he added.
Once the employer gets passports and other details of the aspirant migrants, they apply to the provincial one-stop service centre (involving departments of labour, interior and police) for foreign workers.
Once work permit is issued against the candidate, it is put online and is accessible by the Italian embassies concerned and is notified to the employer. The employer then notifies the jobseeker, who then has to apply to VFS Italy — the Italian visa service provider.
All the taxes and fees for the work permits are provided by the employers.
The only fee the jobseekers need to pay is the cost of the VFS service, which is 30 Euros, and the visa fee, which is 80 euros for short term visas up to 90 days and 116 Euros for long term visas, Enrico explains.
“We check if the information in the application matches with that of the work permit and then print it,” he said.
He also warned that anyone claiming to arrange visas and collects money is a fraud.
An official at the Bangladesh’s Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment said there is information that middlemen are offering Italian visas in exchange for hefty sums. The ministry also asked the jobseekers not to pay any money to these middlemen.
When workers pay hefty sums, they tend not to return but earn more in illegal ways. They think they can’t obtain visas again, which is not right, said Ambassador Enrico.
“If they return home on time, they can go again. It’s also good that after three to six months they can come, visit family and go back to Italy again,” he said.
The Italian ambassador said while working as a seasonal worker, one could also be eligible in the future for indefinite work permit finding employers for a permanent job. More importantly, when one has a regular position in Italy, they can bring other family members and after 10 years of regular work and income, they can become Italian citizens.
Family reunification is a way through which the Bangladesh community in Italy has been increasing every year. In 2013, there was 111,223 Bangladeshis. That increased to 147,872 in 2019.
Enrico Nunziata said since his joining the Italian Embassy in Dhaka in January 2019, he cleared a lot of backlog of visa applications, including the family reunification visas.
BE PATIENT FOR RE-ENTRY VISAS
Just before or during the pandemic, many Bangladeshis had come here, but their resident permits got expired or lost. So, they applied for re-entry visas.
Between August and October, more than 2,000 Bangladeshis applied for re-entry visas that created immense pressure on the embassy. Though other embassies worked from home, officials of the Italian embassy had to work full-fledged in the office.
The challenge is that the Italian competent police headquarters (Questure) authorisation is required for issuing such visas, that it does after verification of the application. This is requiring a longer time since Italy is also battling the Covid-19 pandemic with lockdowns.
Some police headquarters, located in cities where the Bangladeshi community is larger and which receive higher requests of re-entries, take more time to respond compared to others. This is why some re-entry visas are issued before others. By December, the Italian embassy was able to issue around 1,500 re-entry visas.
“When we are working hard day and night, some applicants were agitating. This is so unfortunate,” Enrico said, adding that the embassy is eager to clear the backlog and help the applicants, who were urged to be patient.
“Migration from Bangladesh to Italy forms a very important pillar of bilateral relationships. But we encourage legal pathways. If there are trends of people overstaying, the new opportunity may be wasted,” he said.
By: Porimol Palma