Italy: Immigrants face increasing discrimination

Immigrants coming to Italy face increasing discrimination in many areas, a new report published by Caritas Italy in collaboration with the Migrants office of the Italian Bishops’ Conference shows. 

 Speaking at the presentation of the report, on 30 January, Bishop Giuseppe Merisi, said:  “Millions of people migrate, fleeing from persecution and misery towards better prospects or simply to survive. They have expectations but are often hit by misfortunes which harm their human dignity.”

Oliviero Forti, head of Caritas Italy’s immigration office, gave concrete examples: immigrants paid 3.5 euro to collect 300kgs of tomatoes under the boiling Italian sun; those who are undocumented get 2.5 euro.

The report says that immigrant families on average earn 56 percent less than Italian families. They  also suffer much greater job insecurity and unemployment.

Globally, the UN says that 232 million people migrated to another country in 2012,  compared with 175 million in 2000. Almost 4.5 million foreigners were living in Italy in 2013 – an eight percent jump from the previous year. In descending order, immigrants come to Italy from Romania, Albania, Morocco, China and the Ukraine.

The difficulties that immigrants face in creating a permanent life are emphasised by existing laws. For example, children of immigrants who are born in Italy aren’t given Italian citizenship.

Italy started to tighten up on immigrants more than ten years ago when it introduced the ‘Bossi-Fini law’, which is currently under review. Among other things it made illegal immigration a crime and introduced ‘Centres of Identification and Expulsion’ in which to detain illegal migrants. Speaking of the law, Forti said: “We’ve seen a systematic violation of the rights of immigrants.”

The report says that poverty, unemployment and homelessness  are the top reasons why immigrants go to Caritas. The help Caritas gives responds to these needs: it helps immigrants find jobs, gives them access to ‘solidarity supermarkets’, gives legal advice, offers educational opportunities to improve employment prospects and offers financial advice among other things.

Caritas works to ensure that migrants make an informed choice about leaving their country. Once they’ve left, Caritas provides help along their journey and once they’ve arrived in their country of origin.

At the presentation, Senator Luigi Manconi, president of the Italian parliamentary commission for human rights said the Caritas report “dismantles the four big prejudices that dominates the perception of the migratory phenomenon: that there are too many immigrants, that they steal people’s jobs, that they increase insecurity and that they represent a Muslim invasion.”

In fact, the increase in the number of migrants in Italy over the past few years is actually due to children born to foreign mothers in the country.

There was a heavy police presence at the report presentation. One of the speakers was Cécile Kyenge, Italian minister for integration. Born in the Congo, she’s lived in Italy for around 30 years. The fact she’s attained high office is an illustration that integration in Italy is moving forward. However, since she’s been minister, she’s received frequent abuse, including death threats, because of her race.

Two days after the immigration report launch, Caritas opened a new centre for immigrants in Lampedusa - the first place Pope Francis visited at the start of his pontificate.  

The island has become a transit point for immigrants fleeing poverty, war and persecution in North Africa and the Middle East and hoping to find a life in Europe. Many have lost their lives in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean and their prospects in Europe are bleak.  And yet, every summer the tide of desperate people seeking a better life swells.

To read the report, (in Italian) see:

Source: Michelle Hough/Caritas/Italian Bishops Conference

Share this story