The development of the Italian emigration phenomenon, after the unification of the Kingdom, assumed ever larger proportions (the emigrants, who in 1876 had been 108,771, rose in 1887 to 215,665, in 1898 to 283,715, in 1913 to 872,598, in 1920 to 614.611), but government provisions were unequal to it for a long time.
The problem of regulating emigration had already arisen in 1888 with the promulgation of a special law, which, however, did not achieve the proposed purposes, limiting itself to sanctioning police regulations and leaving the state the right to intervene only when it was required to do so. failure to comply with the labor agreements freely negotiated by the parties. The emigration agencies and sub-agencies were left to the sad exercise of private speculation, indeed the protection of the state seemed to hinge on their activities.
The Luzzatti-Pantano report on the draft law on emigration, presented to parliament on February 3, 1900, drew attention to the sad condition of emigrants, for the first time envisaging the conviction that the phenomenon of emigration should correspond to a wider and a complex action of the state than that exercised up to then with the common police rules. This led to law no. 23 of January 31, 1901, which provided for the creation of the General Emigration Commissioner and the supplementary Regulations of 10 July 1901. The emigration agencies and sub-agencies were abolished, the emigrant put in direct relationship with the carrier, public bodies created to provide expatriate aspirants with all the necessary information, established rules for health care and hygienic, for the protection in ports and for the technical preparation of the steamers used for transport. The new financial burden was provided with the Emigration Fund with which special income was established from emigrants and carriers and able to meet all the expenses for emigration services.
Subsequent legislative provisions supplemented the first provisions. Among them, the r. decr. March 14, 1909, n. 130, relating to the technical preparation of steamers in emigration service, the law of 17 July 1910, n. 538, which reorganized the Commissariat and the various services dependent on it, the Regulation of 16 May 1912 for the administrative and accounting management of the Emigration Fund, the laws of 2 August 1913, n. 1075, and 24 January 1915, n. 173; the decr. lieutenant law 29 August 1918, n. 1379, and the regulation approved with r. decr. 28 August 1919, n. 1643, for the juridical protection of emigrants; the decr. lieutenant law 16 May 1919, n. 1093, regarding the passport of citizens considered or presumed to be emigrants. All the legislative provisions were then coordinated in the single text of the emigration law, approved with r. decr. 13 November 1919, n. 2205. The protection of emigration by the state was thus essentially exercised through the preventive assistance of the emigrant and the judicial protection for labor disputes.
The General Commissariat of Emigration, supported first, then framed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, included a central executive office in Rome, executive offices in the kingdom and executive offices abroad and was assisted by a special consultative body, the Superior Council of the emigration, consisting of 30 members. The financial control body was the parliamentary supervisory commission of the emigration fund, made up of 3 senators and 3 deputies. Four members of the Board of Governors and 2 members for the Supervisory Commission constituted the Standing Committee chaired by the Commissioner General. But, even if the action exercised by the state through the Commissariat corresponded in substance to the best that could be expected from an individualistic conception of society and work, it was still unequal to the duties of national society. And the masses of workers, who every year abandoned the soil of their homeland by the hundreds of thousands, remained at the mercy of foreign speculation, while between Italians abroad and emigrants the furrow that had traced the lack of a worthy national conscience remained intact and unbridgeable. of the historical tradition of a great power.
With the advent of Fascism, people began to look at the phenomenon of emigration not as a technical-administrative fact, but as a political problem. To the statements of the Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Hon. Dino Grandi in the Chamber of Deputies, in the session of March 31, 1927, declarations that constitute the first official voice raised in the name of the government to renounce all the liberal conception that had hitherto informed the activity of the state to regulate emigration, followed timely legislative provisions, which began with r. decr. law 28 April 1927, n. 628, which suppressed the General Commissariat for Emigration and replaced the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its place with a Directorate General for Italians Abroad.
The action of the state, aimed at defending and strengthening the Italian character of the approximately ten million compatriots residing across the border, is concentrated in the services of the Directorate General for Italians Abroad, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Defense action, therefore aimed at safeguarding, once the old differences in treatment between emigrants for work reasons and Italians abroad have been abolished, the rights of compatriots in a foreign land, to assist and understand their moral and material needs. The organs of this action are, first of all, the bundles to which the most jealous work of moral and political protection belongs and the institutions that belong to them and emanate from them: Youth Organizations, National After-Work Opera, Libraries, National Foundation Children of the Lictor.