> ANSA English > News

Migrants sit first compulsory Italian tests

Applicants need to pass for long-term residence permits

17 January, 17:59
Migrants sit first compulsory Italian tests (ANSA) - Florence, January 17 - A group of 17 migrants here on Monday became the first applicants to sit a new Italian language test compulsory for people wanting long-term residence permits and all but one made the grade.

''It was easy, I expected a much harder test,'' said Elton Ebro, a 30-year-old Albanian driver with a local refuse-collection company. ''It seemed to me more of a psychological test than a language test. It went well though''.

The test was made compulsory by a decree last June and the government says it will help integration.

Some critics have branded it discriminatory, while others have said it creates too much of an additional burden on the civil service, but Ebro thought it was a fair move.

''It's right that people who live here should know the language,'' he said.

''This is important to be able to have relations with other people, settle in and find a job''.

The three-part exam features tests of listening and reading comprehension and the composition of a short text, which on Monday was a brief letter to a friend. Non-European Union migrants must get 80% of their answers right to be able to proceed with their long-term permit application, while those who fail can re-sit. The majority of the group Ebro was part of at a Florence middle school were Albanian, although there were also Peruvians, a Siberian woman and a Somali housewife whose four-year-old son fell asleep in the arms of an examiner. ''They were all extremely nervous at first,'' said an examiner, Italian teacher Patrizia Margiacchi. ''But when they realized what it was about, they calmed down''.

Another group of nine migrants took the test in the northern city of Asti, although they will have to wait a week to know the results.

The Association of Italian Christian Workers (ACLI) reiterated its concern on Monday that the test could make the permit process even longer, with migrants already frequently complaining about the waits they have to endure.

''Each year as many as 400,000 to 450,000 foreigners may have the requisites for the long-term residence permit, and the test could mean it takes longer for their documents to be issued,'' said Pino Gulia of the ACLI.

ACLI added that a large-scale programme of Italian teaching for foreigners should accompany the test.