Anti-immigration sentiment in Italy flared up again after a ship carrying African migrants caught fire and capsized on Thursday.
The deputy whip of the xenophobic Northern League party blamed two political opponents, saying they were morally responsible because their “soft stance” on immigration encouraged migrants to embark on dangerous trips to Italy, according to the International Business Times.
Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s first black minister, and Laura Boldrini, chairwoman of the House of Deputies, “have on their conscience” those who died in recent months, Gianluca Pini said, according to the online publication. “By spreading words of welcome [they] only mow down more victims,” he said.
IMMIGRATION IN ITALY
Unlike France, Germany or Britain, where second and third generations of immigrants have settled, Italy is a relative newcomer to immigration, with the first waves of newcomers coming to its shores only in the 1980s.
In the past decade or two, their numbers have increased exponentially, and with them anti-immigrant sentiment: Surveys show Italians blame immigrants for crime and overtaxing the already burdened public health system. Foreigners made up about 2 per cent of Italy’s population in 1990; currently the figure stands at 7.5 per cent, according to official statistics.
RACISM IN ITALY
Ms. Kyenge, a Congolese-born eye doctor who was appointed to cabinet in April, has become a lightning rod for xenophobic attacks.
Here are two examples:
July 13: Roberto Calderoli, a leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League and vice-president of the Senate, compared Ms. Kyenge to an orangutan. “When I see images of Ms. Kyenge I cannot help think, even if I don’t say that she is one, of a resemblance to an orangutan,” he told a rally. He said that Ms. Kyenge has done well to become a minister, but “perhaps she should do it in her own country.” He was also quoted as saying she “makes so many clandestine migrants who come here dream” that they will find “America” in Italy. He later apologized.
June 13: A local politician from the xenophobic Northern League party was expelled from the party after she suggested on Facebook: “Why doesn’t someone rape her [Kyenge], so she can understand what victims of atrocious crimes feel?” The official, Dolores Valandro, was implying that immigrants were responsible for violent crime in Italy.
With reports from Associated Press and Reuters