Like lots of poor countries, Italy was a country of emigrations, from the beginning of 20th century: south and north America were the coveted destinations for millions of Italians, wanting to find fortune far from home, also during the gap between the two world wars.
Lots of people made it, settled down and left a sign in those countries where today they feel at home: in USA Italians are the third community, while in Argentina they are the first one. During the economic boom, Italians stopped leaving Belpaese, but the phenomenon remained and turned into a journey towards the north and its cities, such as Turin, Milan and Genoa: industrial destinations where to finally find coveted job opportunities.
After more than a century, Italy is now a land of immigrants and welcomes especially people from Romania, Albania and Morocco. Now in the country there are about 5 million foreigners – 1 million of them are children –, all people living in Italy permanently, being worth 8.3% of the population – not 30%, as lots of Italian people think – and making the country younger, as they low the average age and – with taxes they pay for – guarantee retirement pensions of today’s and tomorrow’s old people (only 43,000 in 15 million retirements pensions go to immigrants).
To have a true and actual idea of foreigners on our land, we should add asylum seekers, seasonal immigrants, people just passing by and finally irregular immigrants. It’s difficult to deal with this subject, but, anyway, we can state that in Italy there are between 400 and 500 thousand irregular immigrants.
And this is not a negative element, considering last decades’ demographic trend: in 2050, Italian population should be of 56 million people, that is 4 million people less than today, and most of them will be old. If we removed foreigners, the total would be around 40 million, that is just a little more than a half of today’s population. If we hadn’t foreigners, we could not manage our country as we do today. We would be as a house with no children and lots of old people.
All gets older, nothing improves.
A common situation in most of European countries: with no new arrivals, they would be forced to a demographic stagnation, which would automatically cause an economic collapse. It is no coincidence that Mrs. Merkel has opened the country’s doors to immigrants and that her land has chosen the best refugees – more than a million of them.
Anyway, fear remains: citizens are anchored to their prejudices and experience the foreign as a threat to their jobs and as the cause of unsafety in the cities. They fear religious differences. Immigration then becomes the scapegoat of social instability, having origins that should be searched elsewhere – as we have already written.
But xenophobic and populist parties hide themselves behind these fears and use them for electoral aims. An ancient case, but that could be taken as an example: for 5 years, Lega Nord had Roberto Maroni as Ministro degli Interni (Minister of Interior), who dealt with a law called “Bossi – Fini” which made immigrating hard. But then, during those 5 years, Italy welcomed the highest number of immigrants of all times. Change of mind? Different conditions? New opportunities? It’s politics!
And if fears spread already during a mainly north African migration – from Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia, not so culturally different from European habits – western old citizens are reacting bad now that sub-Saharan people are arriving, especially from West Africa (Nigeria, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Cameroon, Niger and Sahel), a more fragmented area, from a cultural and historical point of view. From this area, a more violent and poorer one, people in search for a place to survive will depart: new flows will be much bigger.