Milan: Mayor under fire for comments on jobless foreigners
Milan Mayor Letizia Moratti came under fire on Monday after linking jobless immigrants to higher crime rates. Speaking at a conference on immigration at the Milan Catholic University, Moratti said foreigners living in Italy without permits were likely to commit offences. "Illegal immigrants without regular work normally commit crimes," said Moratti, a member of Premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party. The former education minister's remarks prompted an immediate response.
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The conference audience reacted angrily, with disapproving mutters and catcalls, while numerous opposition politicians voiced criticism as the day progressed. Livia Turco, who heads the Immigration Forum of the largest opposition group the Democratic Party (PD), reprimanded Moratti for her "irresponsible words". "These will only end up feeding oversimplifications and fears," said Turco, saying Moratti's role as mayor of one of Italy's biggest cities made her remarks particularly serious.
"An irregular immigrant is not someone who commits crimes but someone who needs a residence permit," she added.
The daylong conference in Milan's Catholic University, attended by senior politicians, church figures and those working with immigrants, looked at several aspects of immigration in Italy.
In his address, Maroni focused on a report published at the conference examining the link between immigration and urban decay. "This research clearly tells us that what happened in the French banlieues risks happening here," said the minister, referring to rioting among first and second-generation French immigrants in 2005.
The report by the Milan Catholic University's Sociology Department, backed by the Interior Ministry, warned there was "a high risk potential of sudden explosions" in Italian cities. The report pointed out that although Italy has a shorter history of immigration than France, this was now growing at a much faster rate, up 10% in 2010 compared to 2006 levels.
Commenting on the report, Vatican 'interior minister' Antonio Maria Veglio stressed that integration was the best way to address current difficulties and prevent future problems. "It is critical that models of integration are studied that focus on values of mutual understanding and dialogue," he said.
"More than ever before we are in need of a society that expands its spaces of belonging and participation, while restricting those of marginalization and exclusion," he said.
The issue of integration has been in the media spotlight over recent months, following two headline incidents in which foreigners were involved in violence. The first of these saw two days of clashes between foreign farmhands and locals in a Calabrian town in January after Italian youths shot at three African labourers.
Over 50 people were injured during the ensuing riots, which saw immigrants shot at, beaten with iron bars and run over, while cars were alight. The second incident involved ethnic rioting on the outskirts of Milan in February, following the murder of a 19-year-old Egyptian immigrant by a gang of Latin Americans.
This sparked a violent demonstration among North Africans who broke store windows and overturned cars in one of Milan's most multiethnic neighbourhoods.
Source: ANSA (English)