Point-based residence permits, buses for immigrants, removal of public benches to prevent immigrants from gathering… These are some of the new proposals from the Northern League, represented by the Berlusconi government, against non-EEC migrants. The Italian opposition denounces renewed harassment against foreigners.
There is a new anti-immigrant crusade in Italy. After nearly a thousand African seasonal workers were brutally chased out of Rosarno, a small southern town, in January, it is the turn of politicians from the Northern League, a xenophobic political party represented by the Italian government, to propose tougher laws against immigrants from countries outside the European Union, mainly Africans.
The main arsenal of the proposed legislation includes a point-based residence permit, proposed by the interior minister and leading member of the Northern League, Roberto Maroni. Commenting on an initiative he co-runs with his colleague from Social Affairs, Maurizio Sacconi, in early February, he revealed his intention to issue a decree establishing a point-based residence permit that targets non-EEC members, i.e; non European Economic Community citizens.
This residence permit, as envisaged by the two members of the Italian government, is a real Damocles’ sword hanging over the heads of immigrants, clandestine or not. To avoid being thrown-out, immigrants will be required to accumulate thirty points in two years. To do this, they must above all have a work contract and a lease. They must also master the Italian language and memorise the country’s constitution, after which they will undergo a thorough examination. They are also required to be “clean”, that is, not have the slightest criminal record.
As if these were not enough, the Northern League goes even further. Le Nouvel Observateur, a French weekly, last week made mention of a proposal from the city of Milan to introduce special buses for immigrants. On his part, the mayor of Treviso, north-east of the country, has proposed the removal of benches where “too many immigrants sit”, as well as the establishment of vigilante patrols against foreigners. According to the words of an African living in Italy, a more conciliatory politician recently suggested that unemployed immigrants be paid the paltry sum of 400 euros for their deportation.
The Ministers of Interior and Social Affairs failed to mention the conditions under which the language and constitutional law courses will be provided. The Italian opposition has denounced renewed harassment against foreigners. Checking the draft decree on the knowledge of both the Italian constitution and language, they demanded to know the number of Italians who speak the language properly or are aware of the fundamental laws of their country.
According to Emmanuel Zagbla Tano, a researcher in international relations and migration expert living in Italy, most of the Northern League proposals boil down to the pending elections. 13 out of 20 Italian regions will hold Regional elections on March 28 and 29. “It is true that all this is disturbing. But a look at past elections show what it is exactly. For now, every African living in Italy must learn to be very careful,” he told by Afrik-news.com by telephone.
Faced with growing humiliation, the immigrants on March 1 organised a day of strike in Italy. A laughable demonstration in the fight against racism that had no real resonance. Italian workers unions did not mobilize workers to take part in the strike action.