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"With calluses on your palms they don't bother you"

Illegal Romanian migrants in Italy

Ana Bleahu

For every official registered Romanian migrant in Italy there are between one and three illegal, unregistered migrants. This article examines the informal forms of self-organization that arise among the migrants in order to manage the challenges migrants face under a system that needs their labor but refuses to acknowledge this need publicly or institutionalize it openly. Semi-tolerated illegality determines the forms of networks both in the organization of the migration and in the forms of its integration into the labor and housing markets. This strictly ethnographic and qualitative presentation focuses on informal solutions to housing and the creation of informal labor markets and the consequences for the migrants of this enforced informality. It shows how the Italian state is caught between toleration and repression, arbitrarily switching from one mode to the other.