The Ambiguous Terrain of Rights: Civic Stratification in Italy’s Emergent Immigration Regime


In a period marked by heightened interest in the domain of rights, this article focuses on the delivery of rights with respect to cross‐national migrants and, in particular, on the position of non‐EU migrants in Italy. Italy is chosen as a special case, having moved quickly and recently to establish a regime of both rights and controls with respect to migration, culminating in its 1998 legislation. The article considers the emerging picture of rights, alongside impediments to their realization, and a set of associated ambiguities related to delivery and implementation. The outcome is viewed as a pattern of stratified rights – or ‘civic stratification’– which operates along both formal and informal dimensions. Underpinning this picture is a hybrid system whose chief characteristics are: a bureaucratized framework of rights and controls; the permeation of this formal system with informal practices; and the continuing presence of irregular migrants. For them, reasonable chances of clandestine employment and last‐resort provisions are the basis of a survival existence not rooted in formal rights, but subject to minimal formal control.