The foreigners registered in Italy in 1981 were just 211. 000, largely from other western European countries and from North America: at the time it was a phenomenon of very modest numerical impact, largely traditional in an attractive country like Italy and that, moreover, it hardly posed problems of coexistence towards people coming from cultures substantially similar to the Italian one and from generally even more advanced socio-economic situations. Ten years later, while the number of residents from those regions had slightly increased, there were 862. 977foreigners with annual residence permits: they were therefore no longer just Europeans or North Americans more or less well-off, but mainly Asians (Near East, Indian region, South-East Asia), Africans (Mediterranean Africa, Gulf of Guinea, East Africa), South Americans (Andean area), all or almost all immigrants for work. Already during the previous decade, the phenomenon had begun to manifest itself in conspicuous forms, arousing concern or, more properly, alarmism. In the following years, the arrivals of non-EU foreigners further diversified, with the contribution of the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe, and increased slightly: according to the Ministry of the Interior, 923. 625 in 1992,922. 706 in 1994, 891,416 in 1998. These data refer to residence permits issued to ‘regular’ immigrants, while only estimates can be made on the consistency of illegal immigration. On the other hand, however, the number of residence permits is cumulative (this is the number of permits issued each year) and does not give any certainty that the holders have not left for other destinations after having obtained or renewed the permit. Ultimately, there is a lack of reliable data on the phenomenon as a whole: the ISTAT, based on a verification of the data of the Ministry of the Interior, estimates it respectively at 648. 935 (1991),589. 457 (1992), 677. 791 (1994) foreigners provided with residence permits (while he does not believe he can make estimates valid for more recent years). On the other hand, minor children are exempt from the residence permit, and therefore are not registered. Under these conditions, the estimates that also want to take into account illegal immigration are, understandably, the most varied; however, it can be reasonably assumed that as a whole the foreigners residing in Italy (including all origins and all modalities of entry) are 1, 2 ÷ 1, 3 million people, that is to say a little more than 2 % of the Italian population. The phenomenon has certainly taken on a noteworthy dimension; but, to realistically evaluate the incidence of immigration in Italy, it is good to compare the Italian case with that of other countries: even without considering Luxembourg (about 30 % of foreigners), foreigners residing in Switzerland involve slightly less than 20 % of the total population; around 9 % are those residing in Great Britain, Germany and Belgium; exceed 5% in the Netherlands and France. In this context, immigration to Italy, as in the other Mediterranean countries that have recently become a destination for arrivals, can well be defined as modest. Since the mid-1990s, moreover, if we exclude particular and conspicuous events (but of little significance from a numerical point of view), such as the arrival of refugees from Albania or Turkey (Kurds), immigration to Italy attenuated, also due to more restrictive regulations adopted at European Union level. The entries that can still be recorded, when referring to non-EU origins, are mainly due to family reunification, a phenomenon that denotes a relative stabilization of the situation of immigrants.
In this sense, many communities are gradually rebalancing the male and female components which, initially, were strongly unbalanced: both, as most often happens, in the sense of an excess of males (at the beginning of the decade, immigrant men from Africa the Pakistanis were over 4 times more numerous than women, 9sometimes), and also, on the contrary, of an excess of women (this is the case of the Filipino, Polish, Romanian, Cape Verdean and South American communities). The formation or reformation in Italy of families composed of non-EU foreigners is too recent a phenomenon to be able to have a significant impact on the natural demographic rates of the Italy population: however, it is legitimate to expect a significant demographic contribution within a few years, especially if we consider the young average age of immigrants, who for about two thirds are between 18 and 39 years of age.
The territorial distribution of immigrants in Italy clearly prevails all the northern regions (just over half of the total) over the Center (one third of the total) and the South (about 15 %). In general, therefore, it could also be concluded that the migratory influx, according to a perfectly understandable dynamic, occurs in an inverse proportion with respect to the natural balances: it is higher in the deficit regions, lower in the surplus ones. In good measure, immigration has turned the cities and highly urbanized provinces: by far preferred is Rome (over 140. 000 permits), followed by Milan (about 90. 000), Florence, Turin and Naples (about 23. 000 each); other provinces are home to less consistent communities (11,000 ÷ 16. 000 people): Vicenza, Bologna, Verona, Perugia, Genoa, Catania and Trieste. In these 12 provinces (which make up about one third of the total Italian population) more than half of the foreigners reside. The level of integration of the foreign population is still modest and above all very variable as a consequence not so much of the behavior of the foreigners themselves, but of the Italian socio-political climate.
The presence of non-EU foreigners has, in fact, on many occasions been seen as a nuisance, real or alleged, by members of the Italian population, giving rise to a large number of episodes – mainly limited – of impatience or intolerance, when not of open racism. It is not difficult, beyond the exploitation, to trace these episodes to conditions of social hardship experienced by Italians as well as by foreigners, and to phenomena of ‘competition’ (at work, in access to services, on the territory) between national communities and those immigrants. Nor is it difficult to point out how, moreover, competition in the workplace is somewhat reduced, given that immigrants are assigned in absolute prevalence to tasks that Italian citizens often refuse to perform, when not to extralegal or illegal activities. What could be defined territorial competition is probably the most conspicuous and most felt, especially in urban areas, where the concentrations of immigrants can be greater and more compact. Without real conditions of spatial segregation having yet occurred, in fact, immigrants have a tendency, in Italy as elsewhere, to aggregate in relatively limited areas and neighborhoods, which thus end up assuming, rightly or wrongly, a specific ethnic or at least social connotation (generally understood in a negative sense by Italian residents). The undoubted spread of petty crime among immigrants, as well as among the less guaranteed communities of the national population, leads to exacerbating the urban population and making it hostile to immigrants as a whole.
It should be emphasized, however, that phenomena of progressive integration are also appearing: it is significant, although the circumstance still concerns small numbers of people, that the number of marriages involving foreigners is in sharp increase: about 11. 000 marriages, that is 3, 8 % of the total number of marriages celebrated in 1994 (value exactly double compared to 1986), saw at least one of the spouses foreign; only in 13% of the cases both spouses were foreigners, but also the marital choice between immigrants appears to be symptomatic of a certain confidence in the prospects of insertion of the new family unit. It is worth noting that the frequency of intermarriage seems simply correlated to the amount of foreigners living in different parts of the., And not to particular regional propensities; thus, the proportion of marriages concerning foreign rises to 4, 7 % in the regions of North West at 5, 4 % in the Northeast and 5, 8 % in the Center, according to a certain proportion with the foreign presence in the same districts.
Another element must be taken into account that allows us to talk about a process, albeit a tiring one, of integration: it is schooling, which in the 1995 – 96 school year involved over 50. 000 foreign students in all the various levels of schools. In this case, the contribution provided by immigrant communities is not proportional, if not in part, to their respective numerical consistency: the first places in terms of number of pupils are communities from all the former Yugoslav countries, which represent, the second migratory origin, registering 9,266 registered against about 74. 000 overall attendance; and the community from Morocco (7655 subscribers, compared to more than 81. 000 present: that Morocco has long been the most numerous immigrant communities); follow the originating subscribers Albania (4147, but only about 30. 000 presences), the Chinese (2941) and Peruvians (1524), whose communities are much less numerous than those, eg., of Filippini or Tunisia (which stood at around 30. 000unit). Also in this case, the regional distribution of frequencies corresponds fairly to the distribution of the presence of immigrants in the territory.