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Thought Piece | The #OpportunityPass: What Germany And Italy Can Do For Europe's Migration Policy

Ronith Schalast, Associate

I spent three days with peers from Italy and Germany at this year's German-Italian Young Leaders’ Dialogue - the Spinelli Forum, discussing the future of migration governance in the EU.

In the discussions, I learned a lot not only about how the problems of migration governance are perceived in Italy, but also about the Italian perspective on Germany. What surprised me is that, although the two countries have very different experiences with migration, the underlying challenges are perceived to be the same. There are a few points that stuck with me.

A Shared Problem: We lack effective and efficient integration systems for irregular migrants who are already in the EU

There are so many problem areas in the field of migration policy.

Our group chose to focus on the precarious situation of the more than 700,000 people in Italy, and between 500,000-180,000 people in Germany who are living amongst us but have an irregular status. Irregular migrants are too often denied access to basic social services, and are unable to claim their rights and benefits. Many of them have already been living in the EU for many years.

What we agreed on was that the irregular status of migrants is not the fault of individuals, but rather that our states hold the responsibility to offer support to this group of people and fulfil its human rights obligations.

A Possible Solution: Providing a low-threshold temporary residence permit (#OpportunityPass) for regularization of statuses

In the face of such a complex problem, the solution we found was radically simple.

Our idea was to offer all irregular migrants in Germany and Italy a temporary residence permit for one year, through a safe and quick application process from within the country. During that year, the permit holder could gain access to language and integration courses, skills training and skills recognition, and support in finding a course of study or work. The goal: to empower individuals to apply for a regular long-term residence permit by the end of that period.

This #OpportunityPass would not only benefit the individuals, but also society as a whole, by addressing labour shortages, increasing the tax income, reducing the pressures on the asylum system, and fighting precarity and exploitation.

No Way Forward? While the ideas are there, they lack political support and momentum

Upon presenting our ideas to government representatives of the two countries, we were reminded of the political reality of migration governance.

For a radically simple idea such as the #OpportunityPass to even be considered, a lot will have to be done to change the discourse on migration in Europe. Paradoxically, we know that such ideas are not impossible, as we saw with the quick and unbureaucratic integration and support for Ukrainian citizens arriving in the EU in 2022. But for such agreements to be made, the political momentum needs to be high, and politicians need to let go of their fear of a right-wing backlash.

My beacon of hope: Young people from Germany and Italy are still able to think together through potential new solutions - I still believe that one day, these could become a reality.


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