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Italian Minister Promises Quotas

September 2, 1998

ROME (AP) _ Italy will soon set quotas on the number of foreigners allowed to legally enter and work in the country, Interior Minister Giorgio Napolitano announced in comments published Tuesday.

Napolitano said a decree would be drawn up limiting the number of entries by nationality for the rest of the year, followed by a second quota for 1999, Italian newspapers reported.

The announcement came after a meeting Monday on security issues in southern Italy, which has borne the brunt of illegal immigration.

Italy currently lets an unlimited number of immigrants stay if they can prove they were victims of persecution at home or if they have a job waiting for them.

Napolitano said the quotas would reflect the number and type of workers requested by authorities region by region.

Many businesses, especially in the agricultural sector, rely on illegal immigrants for seasonal jobs such as tomato picking. The new decree is intended to assure employers the workers they need for jobs that Italians won’t take.

Thousands of would-be immigrants have reached Italy this summer, forcing the government to set up detention centers throughout the south.

According to the nation’s new immigration law, illegal arrivals must be repatriated within 30 days. But many immigrants arrive without identity papers, making it impossible for them to be sent back home.

On Tuesday, police blocked 175 mostly Albanian and Kurdish would-be immigrants in the southern region of Puglia and in Sicily. Police arrested two people who allegedly took money to ferry the immigrants to Italy.

Update hourly