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Perspectives for immigrants in Italy

Perspectives for immigrants in Italy

Marina Melchionda (April 28, 2008)
Lega Party, Electoral Campaign Poster
"They accepted immigration, and now they live in reserves."

Is Italy becoming a racist country? Immigration is increasingly perceived as a threat to public security. The new government, pressed by the Lega Party, is going to promote a number of reforms aiming at diminishing the flux of foreigners crossing the national borders. Berlusconi's networks, in the meantime, fuel hostility against them.



Public security has been the battle horse of the electoral campaign of the Lega Party for these last elections. Security in this case generally refers to the right of the Italian citizens to be protected by the invasion of immigrants. People from abroad are considered a danger mainly for two reason: first, they “steal” jobs from the Italians. In other words, it is stated that they are one of the causes of unemployment: the number of immigrants coming in the country in search for a job is said to be somehow related to the number of unemployed Italians; second, immigrants are considered to be criminals: if they don’t find a way to sustain themselves working, they’ll probably (or surely, as some say) degenerate into rubbers, killers, rapists.
Now, if I had the chance to do it, I would write down a book of the dimensions of an encyclopaedia to show and prove that these two believings are completely unfounded and also deceptive.   Of course I will never say that all immigrants are nice, educated and honest people. I would not say it neither for Italians, nor for Americans and I won’t say it for them. But, at the same time, I refuse to consider them as a number of dishonest people led by the worst intentions. Differently from me, some Italians seem to be sure that the only way to guarantee a secure future for the nation and for the coming generations is to kick away these people from the country.
It seems that they never heard the complains of north-eastern landowners that state they need more immigrants to work in their properties. They need them because there are no Italians willing to accept jobs considered nowadays too “humiliating”.
Moreover, our National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) states that in the greatest percentage of cases of physical violence and rape the aggressors are the women’s partners, relatives, colleagues, friends. Only a relatively small number of cases involve strangers, very few immigrants.
So, what’s this scare? Where does it come from? History has thought us that economic and social discomfort are the main sources of hostility towards what is felt as “different”, “unknown”, they cause distrust against those representing a culture, a way of living that people don’t feel as their own. They feel impotent against something they don’t understand and that they can not manage or control. So they think they must find a mean to face the situation and protect themselves.  This has happened everywhere in the world, from the USA during the Great Depression period, with the government blocking immigrations, to Germany, where the Nazi Party has persecuted the Jewish minority in order to transform Germany in a country where only Arian people could find a home. Racist motivations covered the real reason for persecution: Jewish owned a great percentage of the national wealth – most of the richest bankers, merchants and business men belonged to that minority – and it was considered indispensable, in a nationalist optic, to take that wealth away from them and control it, because it “belonged” to Germany.
The same attitude can be found in the Lega Party. It has gained the consensus of 10% of the electors (including those who used to vote for the Left Coalition) promising them a more stable future, obtainable only through the expulsion of foreigners. It has become a question of “national security”.  No wonder that three months ago a Lega politician, Bettio, member of the city council of Treviso, a town in the North of Italy, has proposed to treat immigrants as the SS used to treat Jewish prisoners, punishing ten of them for each crime or aggression committed against an Italian citizen. He really made this comparison and no TV or national newspaper has talked about it. Which I think is scandalous. What is even more shameful, in my opinion, is that on the other hand networks never stop reporting crimes performed by immigrants: bed events concerning them are always the first to be told as the newscasts start. Of course they must keep people informed, but the way it is done disturbs most of those who share my opinions on the issue. To be sure that people understand that the crime of which is talked about has been committed by a foreigner, they underline the provenience of the person involved several times. Once I counted them: 6 times in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.
Since the 15th of April (the date of the last elections), Berlusconi’s networks  have been transmitting several shows concerning the security issue. Even the entertainment ones deal with it: an example among the others is Buona Domenica, a 5-hour-long show to which, on the 20th of April, three policemen called to represent the entire Italian Armed Body have been invited. For the occasion, the guests have been thanked for their great efforts in  protecting Italians against “the dangers they face on the streets”. Same thing for “Secondo Voi”, a show transmitted at 1:30 pm ( when all the housewives, retired and unemployed people are home and watch TV) where Del Debbio, the anchor, invites the new government to promote reforms in order to “expulse useless immigrants” from the country.
Berlusconi’s networks really do know how to brainwash (I call it this way) people. They are already creating great consent for the future reforms the Ministry of the Interiors and the Ministry of Institutional Reforms (the presidency of both of them has been assigned to the Lega Party)  will promote as concerning to the immigration issue.
Today the citizens of Rome are electing their new Mayor. Partito della Libertà’s (Berlusconi’s coalition) candidate, Alemanno, has organized an electoral campaign concentrated on the “problem of security”. A woman being raped a week ago in the periphery of the city has been good news for him. He has gained in popularity, most people see him as the “hero” who will save Rome from danger and fear. Every single newscast transmitted on Berlusconi’s networks still discusses the case even though seven days have already passed by! Berlusconi has also proposed to give Rome the status of federal district if Alemanno will be elected.
The fear is that Italy is becoming a nationalist-racist country. What is called “national interest” is prevailing. The last elections show it. The elections in Rome will very probably only be a sad confirmation. Italians seem to have forgotten that they have been emigrants for a very long time. They should be the first to welcome new comers. Of course among them there will always be people animated by bed intentions, but it is important to judge immigrants properly, operating a distinguish between criminals and those coming in Italy hoping for a better future.     

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Immigration/ Racism/ Gypsies in Italy

As a citizen of both the United States and Italy, I am very concerned about the new right-wing government in Italy and their hard line approach to the gypsy (also known as the Rom or Senti) and the fingerprinting, detention based on ethnicity and expelling of them (some 60% of whom have full Italian citizenship,- or have citizenship of Romania or other E.U. nation passport holders).

I invite you to read and follow the links I am sending to news items on this subject.

I think we are seeing the ugliness of a fascist type ethnic cleansing the likes of which any American, any practicing Catholic and any Italian-American with a sense of social justice should be aware of. See what is the Italian Government doing, and decide for themselves if they think its right.

I was living in Italy, most recently in 2005 and saw first hand the harsh conditions the gypsy live under. Now, just to let you know, I am not misinformed, nor misguided, nor do I have any romantic notions of the gypsy life and realize that some actually do commit crimes or beg or sell roses or try to sell you things on street corners or pick pocket short,do things that annoy the average citizen, but what we are seeing now is beyond anything relating to stopping petty crime. It is the criminalization of an ethnic group.

Also the politicians prey upon the unsympathetic prejudices people have against them to win votes.

There have been recent burning of camps by vigilantes. Recently in Napoli by the mafia: Here is a video link on that:

Take a look at this Italian Election Poster, so blatantly appealing to racist attitudes, as you can see:

Read this story that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on the Human Rights of Gypsies in Italy:

from the Italian Magazine "Famiglia Cristiana" in Italiano:

A well written article in the British newspaper, the Guardian:

Things you never see in Italian Travel Brochures: (I guess having dead gypsies on the beach doesn't stop tourists from getting a nice tan.)

I'm concerned about this burning of Camps and fingerprinting babies based on their ethnicity because I don't think its right, but also its changing Italy.

In 2005, I also experienced in Italy a lot of prejudice as a "foreigner" even though I am an Italian-American(and a duel citizen USA/Italy) and their sense of xenophobia (fear of Foreigners) was palpable.

It is a systematic wholesale approach to a person based on ethnicity to criminalize them and to me this is not the "American Way" nor the "Italian Way" as I was raised to understand it. Also a far -right wing party with roots in fascism called the "Liga Nord", which has for years been talking bad about Southern Italians is behind this flamatory rhetoric.

It is my sincere hope that Italians will find better ways to deal with their "gypsy problem" and do more positive things than turn to vigilantism and instead send kids to school, have them learn a trade to survive in this modern world and not repeat the cycle of violence and poverty.

If you have anything to add, please let me know. I think that people would care if they knew more of the story, I don't have all the answers, but I'm looking for them at least.



Is it true or just an election trick?

Honestly I don't think this alleged scenario is likely to come true. After the result of the elections of the Mayor in Rome where Alemanno (candidate of Berlusconi's PDL) won on Rutelli (candidate of Veltroni's PD) in the second ballot while the first ballot saw Rutelli in strong advantage against Alemanno, I strongly fear that this wave of fear has been encouraged for some electoral purpose. The actual actions that this government is going to take against immigrants are directed strictly to those who immigrate illegally or who commit crime. The new mayor of Rome himself is taking a "journey" in Rome's ROM camps to understand the situation and try to improve these people's lives. I think newcomers will always be welcomed in Italy by this government despite what they have said. This coalition is mainly composed by entrepreneurs who like low cost workers (aka immigrants) very much, that's why I think the whole thing was a lark-mirror just for the elections... and it worked!!