Italian historian, professor, politician and activist Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, has called for the regularisation of up to 300,000 ‘illegal’ migrants in the domestic services sector in the country in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Full text of Riccardi’s article:

(Source: Corriere della Sera, via Sant’Egidio; translation: Novena)

The revitalisation of the country requires us not to resume the debates in the theatrical and bellowing way we hashed them out before the coronavirus crisis.

The issue of irregular foreigners living in Italy has become evident again in recent weeks. Rightly, the world of agriculture has raised the problem of seasonal workers, who will be lacking in this harvest, along with the need to replace them.

Many of the foreigners could be useful for this purpose, with regularisation. The problem, in this way, is well resolved. However, it is not clear why there are other sides to the same problem that remain untreated: the situation of domestic workers, babysitters and caregivers.

There are around 250,000 people, almost all women from Eastern Europe, from outside the EU or from Latin America, who are employed as domestic workers.

They have never been able to regularise their situation, because there has been no possibility of doing so since 2012, since the Monti government. However, with their service, they respond to a vital need of Italian society.

Successful integration

Giving immigration papers only to agricultural workers (a gesture in itself pragmatic and fair) would be unfair. Unfair to forgotten people. Unfair to Italian families.

The Covid-19 massacre of elderly people in nursing homes is helping people value the home as a place of life and protection for the elderly.

How can [the home] become that without the proper help? The home caregiver system (with over 450,000 regularised people) is a brilliant invention of Italian families to support the fragile. It is an act of satisfactory integration, because it is managed from the domestic environment.

Not to ensure this [system] for the elderly and disabled would be a serious mistake. And it’s already happening.

In fact, many of those in an irregular situation no longer provide more services for fear of immigration checks, among other reasons.

Regularising these workers would give encouragement to familes that are under a lot of stress after long weeks of isolation.

It would be of great help to the phase of reviving work and social life, which, for obvious reasons, will be more complex now.

Babysitters are vital, considering that schools are closed. Like domestic workers when ordinary working life starts again. If the regular recruitment of such workers were possible, many such workers would step forward, thus revealing a real demand [for regularisation].


The Covid-19 crisis has revealed the extent to which Italian society has become lacking in networks and aid, and how much it needs renewed social and human sensitivity.

It would be a mistake not to take this into account, not least of all so as not to start living and doing politics again as we did yesterday.

A new impetus in a spirit of “reconstruction” is possible today only if people feel serene, supported in their family environment.

Furthermore, [regularisation] is fair for these working people, largely already integrated, even if they are irregular.

Discriminating against them with regard to regularisation and compared to other workers shows little sensitivity to the interests of the family, children and the elderly.

In these weeks of isolation, Italians have experienced in a new way the family environment and the needs of everyday life. The humanity and culture of the Italians have changed a bit. Now they’re not mired in the fearful shouts against the “invasion” of foreigners.

What invasion, when the borders are closed?

Bringing up the hidden issue of undeclared undocumented workers speaks to a need for security and health, and represents an advantage for the State that, by regularising 300,000 people, would also raise one and a half billion euros.

Next on Novena:

COVID-19: Italian Church group calls for immediate regularisation of 600,000 ‘illegal’ immigrants

COVID-19: Caritas Europa joins call for regularisation of undocumented migrant workers crucial for agricultural sector


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.