Migrants and refugees in Europe: problems and challenges

A European seminar was held on "Migrants and refugees in Europe: problems and challenges" from November 8-10, 2019. This was organized by MCL/EFAL (Movimento Cristiano Lavoratori/Ente Nazionale per la Formazione e l'Addestramento dei Lavoratori) in cooperation with the International Platform for Cooperation and Migration (IPCM) and carried out with support from the EU and EZA. Keynote speakers included Mgr. Paolo Giuletti, Bishop of Lucca, Carlo Costalli, President of MCL, Sergio Silvani, President of EFAL, Piergiorgio Sciacqua, Co-President of EZA, and Paolo Cesana, Director of the Fondazione Luigi Clerici (FLC).

34 representatives of workers’ organizations from Portugal, Spain, Greece, Poland and Italy attended the seminar, which debated immigration to Europe and Italy, an immigration that has increased with pictures of boat landings, deaths at sea, in recent years walls and closed ports. Last but not least, a feeling of fear was instilled by the media and newspapers, which had less and less to do with reality and the real numbers. For example, for Italy immigration has recently decreased and Italy is only fourth in Europe with regard to the admission of migrants and refugees. The seminar also recalled the words of Pope Francis, who warned not to waste time on controversies, but to develop urgently needed solutions for the sustainable integration of migrants and refugees.

An important topic in the seminar was the immigration of people for professional reasons, in particular nurses, domestic workers and employees in the catering industry. According to the Istituto Nazionale di Statistica (ISTAT), a total of 2,455,000 foreign workers were employed in Italy in 2018, which corresponds to 10.6% of the total number of workers. The percentage of foreign workers rose significantly between 2009 and 2014 (from 7.9% to 10.3%), only to stabilise in the past five years. The wealth produced by foreign workers in Italy is estimated at around EUR 139 billion or 9% of gross domestic product (GDP), the majority of which is in the service sector (45.1%), followed by the hotel and restaurant sector (18.6%), agriculture (17.8%) and construction. Against the background of these data, the participants in Lucca emphasised the importance of the foreign labour force for the domestic economy both for Italy and for other EU countries.


The importance of foreign workers for the domestic economy needs to be brought to the attention of the general population. Women who care for the elderly and men who work in the agricultural sector and tourism not only make an economic but also a social contribution to the development of our societies. Immigration can also help to at least partially compensate for the very low birth rates in our European countries - and their consequences for the labour market and society.

The seminar in Lucca showed how important it is for integration to be successful for some examples of good practice - from Maria Reina Martin from Portugal, but also from Tuscany, where reception centres for migrants and underage women were set up a few kilometres from Lucca for migrants and refugees, but also for the local population.

The conclusions confirmed the idea of presenting good practices in further seminars in order to continue the discussion about the integration of foreign workers and refugees and the contribution that social dialogue can make to this.