Moving Cities
About the city

Naples

The solidarity city reinventing urban commons

Key Takeaways

  • 1

    The firm and vocal political position of Mayor De Magistris has significantly reinforced networking among solidarity cites at national and international levels.

  • 2

    The city has launched an innovative urban commons charter (one of its kind in Italy) for the creation of self-managed collective spaces, where city assets are considered as commons to be used for social purposes.

  • 3

    The “I Tavoli” – multi-stakeholder decision-making roundtables tackling a specific policy issue. These have proven a successful way of facilitating dialogue between citizens and the administration.

What is unique about Naples?

Local activism meets an active mayor: Naples is an important Mediterranean hub. Its local activism, the strong presence of migrant-led associations as well as the political engagement of Mayor De Magistris have established Naples as a “Solidarity City”.

We thank all the citizens who immediately took action – within a few hours, the whole city has positively overcome this social and humanitarian emergency, in a perfect union between institutions and citizens, because together we have supported the welcome process, openness, inclusion, and integration.

Deputy mayor for Welfare R. Gaeta in 2016, after the rescued Gregoretti boat carrying 466 migrants, including 98 unaccompanied minors, disembarked in Naples

What is the focus of local migration policies?

A city of human rights: Concrete and symbolic acts by the De Magistris administration have established Naples as a city of peace and rights in local, national and international arenas. Naples reinforced this position in 2018, in the wake of the national government´s restrictive and punitive position towards sea rescue during (right-wing) Salvini’s time in office as Interior Minister.

What are the greatest achievements so far?

Opposing Salvini, saving lives: Among Naple’s greatest political achievements are its public stance in favour of solidarity and the idea of the “Solidarity City”. In June 2018, De Magistris declared: “Naples is ready, even without funding, to save lives. […] If a heartless Ministry leaves pregnant women, children, the elderly, human beings to die at sea, the port of Naples is ready to welcome them.”

What are the key factors?

A high degree of self-organisation: Coalitions made up of volunteers, NGOs, social movements, trade unions, associations and social service providers take care of the most practical needs and tasks in relation to refugee reception. These organisations often work unofficially and are self-organised. The city government has positioned itself as a mediator and facilitator between local actors and alliances.

Political activities and advocacy beyond the city level

Together with other Italian cities, Naples challenged the hostile migration policies of the national government under Salvini. In recognition of its humanitarian efforts, Naples was included in the Network of Solidarity Municipalities (or Rete dei Comuni Solidali Re.Co.Sol) in January of 2019.

Download the full city report

The city report contains more information about the city’s migration and inclusion policies and selected local approaches.

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Political context of Italy

Migration policy in Italy

Immigration is a relatively recent phenomenon in Italy, as is the development of migration and asylum policies. Alongside EU migration policies, reception is often secondary to border control and the “fight against irregular migration”.

The so-called “flow decree" defines the maximum number of foreigners who can be admitted on to Italian territory for employment purposes. However, regular migration channels have closed, and "irregular" migration has been increasingly criminalised in recent decades.

Until the introduction of the “hotspot approach” in 2015, asylum policies in Italy had increasingly aligned with EU policies. A new 2020 law has, at least in theory, reformed the reception system back to a single system for both asylum seekers and those granted international and special protection. Nevertheless, the system is still primarily addressed at beneficiaries of international protection and unaccompanied minors. Also, municipalities do not have enough space to meet the reception needs of all those entitled to it. To this end, local authorities can use financial resources made available by the Interior Ministry through the ‘national fund for asylum policies and services’.

Historical background

Having been predominantly a country of emigration until the 1980s, Italy has gradually transformed itself into a country of immigration. In the absence of any coherent regulatory framework, the situation was managed for years with ad hoc measures. In 1982 a ban on entry for employment purposes was introduced, leading to a trend of “irregular” entries for work, which was compensated by periodic regularisation every four years or so.

In 1986, the Foschi Law established full equal rights for foreign workers, but without simplifying conditions of entry. In 1990, the Martelli Law extended the asylum law and created legal entry channels that were strictly regulated in terms of numbers. At the same time, it introduced measures to control entry and deport irregular migrants. The 1998 Turco-Napolitano Law created a residence card to protect long-term residents, but also privileged quotas of labour migrants from countries that collaborate on repatriation. Temporary detention and assistance centres (CPTs) were then created to detain and identify undocumented migrants.

In 2002, the Bossi-Fini Law introduced the so-called “flow policy”, with stringent admission requirements. It shortened the duration of residence permits, instituted fingerprinting for all foreigners and increased the length of stay in CPTs from 30 to 60 days. At the same time, 650,000 permits were regularised, while the 2007 EU expansion facilitated the right to remain in Italy for over one million foreigners from the new EU member states.

In 2008-2009 the rules were tightened. Illegal immigration was officially recognised as a crime and the requirements for integration became stricter.

In 2017, the government used the Minniti-Orlando Law to expand the capacity of immigration detention centres in order to increase the rate of deportations. The same government also signed a new memorandum of understanding on cooperation with Libya to curb the flow of migrants to Europe.

Key developments of recent years

With the introduction of the “hotspot approach” in 2015, originally intended to promote voluntary redistribution between EU countries, Italy’s “selection” system upon arrival was reconfigured. Selections were now made on the basis of country of origin, and with the marked distinction between “potential asylum seekers” and unwanted “economic migrants”.

The Salvini Decrees on immigration and security closed ports to NGOs that carried out sea rescue missions, and allocated funds for undercover police operations to combat the facilitation of illegal immigration. Humanitarian protection was eliminated, affecting the majority of beneficiaries of international protection. A further consequence was that asylum seekers were then no longer able to register, drastically affecting both their ability to access to public services and their residency requirements. A 2020 Constitutional Court ruling later abolished this measure.

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, “quarantine ships” were created to isolate migrants before their entry into Italy. This measure inevitably evoked memories of the “floating hotspots” envisaged in 2016 by the then Interior Minister Alfano. A temporary decree on 19th May 2020 used emergency measures to house asylum seekers in accommodation centres normally reserved for those with subsidiary protection status and unaccompanied minors.

Progressive campaigns and their achievements

The Federation of Evangelical Churches and the Mediterranean Hope project have been the concept of “humanitarian corridors”, designed to serve vulnerable population groups.

2015 also saw the signing of the Charter of Palermo, which aims at “addressing the regulation of migratory flows in a completely new way, for example by proposing the abolition of residence permits, in favour of adopting a radical understanding of citizenship adoption as a tool for inclusion and participation in public life.” The Palermo process underpins the Palermo Charter Process Platform Process, which brings together actors and activists involved in sea rescue from all over Europe.