Monday, July 05, 2004

Pro-immigration policy changing face of Italian cities - JULY 6, 2004

Pro-immigration policy changing face of Italian cities - JULY 6, 2004
Pro-immigration policy changing face of Italian cities
The number of Romanians and other foreigners is soaring as the government steps up the issue of residency permits

ROME - An influx of migrants is transforming this ancient city with many of taking them up residence in out-of-the-way nooks and crannies.

They inhabit abandoned houses, construction sites, parks, vacant land beneath bridges, Roman ruins and even a 2nd-century grotto that once sheltered images of Roman gods.


Once a stopover for migrants headed to wealthier northern nations, Italy is now the destination. It formerly resisted accepting foreigners but is now a welcoming host.

The number of residency permits granted last year exploded to 630,000, almost triple that of 2002, according to Interior Ministry statistics.

The government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi decided that regularising the status of immigrants helps fulfil the needs of employers.

The programme was supposed to be accompanied by a crackdown on illegals but few have been deported.

The other notable trend is that newcomers from such countries as Romania, Ukraine, Moldova and Bulgaria are beginning to statistically muscle out migrants from as far afield as Morocco, the Philippines, Tunisia and China, according to the Catholic relief agency Caritas.

'Italy is really experiencing an Eastern European phenomenon,' said Caritas official Lequyin Ngodhin.

'The situation in the East is gravely deteriorating. Countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine are far from joining the European Union. Their people aren't waiting. They're coming here to join first.'

Italy has also been issuing legalisation papers in increasing numbers, and observers note that the numbers of East European applicants for residence are rising faster than those of any other group.

Romanians now represent the largest single number of legal aliens in Italy, making up 10 per cent of Italy's 2.5 million legal immigrants.

Migration is changing the face of once-homogenous Italian cities.

Africans, Arabs, Slavs, Albanians, Filipinos and Chinese jostle one another on streets full of clothing vendors, fruit and vegetable stalls, souvenir hawkers, prostitutes and their pimps.

The spread of migrants around the city has upset some local residents.

The city depends a great deal on tourism and pilgrimage, and the wave of male and female prostitutes near the Termini Station and the campers under Tiber River bridges and at the grottoes interferes with Rome's postcard imagery. -- Washington Post


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