Italy: Immigrants in nationwide strike

Italy: Immigrants in nationwide strike

Related story: France: 'Day Without Immigrants'

Foreign-born workers took to the streets around Italy on Monday for the country's first-ever
immigrant strike in a move to highlight their contribution to Italian society. Organizers said the main idea behind the strike, entitled "A Day Without Us" is to illustrate what a vital part of the economy immigrants have become by showing what a day without them would be like.

Protestors staged some 60 marches and rallies all over the country, many of them donning yellow shirts and armbands, the non-political and attention-grabbing colour chosen to represent the event. Perhaps the largest demonstration took place in Naples, where a procession of over 20,000 snaked through the historic center chanting: "We are the citizens of tomorrow! We are paying for your pensions!" One of the organizers, a representative from Italy's largest trade union CGIL, Jamal Qaddorah, said he was pleased with the turnout from the area's immigrant community.

"There are people here from dozens of different countries. Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Bangladesh just to name a few," he said.

Qaddorah added that "it's especially encouraging to see so many Italians out here wearing yellow".

The strike on Monday was inspired by a strike on the same day in France, which gave rise to similar demonstrations in Spain and Greece. In Italy, it was organized independently by a disparate group of promoters from labor union representatives and immigrants' right activists to foreign workers themselves, who used the internet to mobilize support.


Other events included an ethnic lunch for prison guards in Varese, an anti-immigrant graffiti wash-out in Trieste, a photo exhibition in Bologna and foreign-language lessons on Milan street corners.

One of the event's high points came 6:30pm (CET) when all 60 demonstrations let fly hundreds of yellow balloons.

While the immigrant strike was organized independently, a wide-range of organizations also participated including the opposition Democratic Party (PD), which staged a separate rally in Rome's Esquilino multiethnic neighbourhood.


Several members of Premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party also spoke favourably of the initiative, such as junior chairman of the House Labour Committee, Giuliano Cazzola.

"Immigrants want us to understand not only that they exist but that they're indispensable to the economic and social life of this country". "That's absolutely true and we have to realize that there is no alternative to integration," he said.


National statistics bureau Istat estimates there are currently over 4.8 million immigrants living in Italy, nearly twice as many as there were in 2001, making up around 7.1% of the population and 8% of the labour force.

Two out of three immigrants are legally employed, some 67% against 58.7% of native-born Italians.

According to a another study Catholic charity Caritas, immigrants produce upwards of 10% of Italy's gross domestic product and contribute over 10.2 billion euros in income tax revenue.


Source: ANSA (English)

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