Friday, 14 November 2008

Italy 'to curb immigrant influx'

» 2008-11-13 17:25

Napolitano says foreigners make the nation stronger
(ANSA) - Rome, November 13 - The Italian government is ''determined'' to reduce the number of immigrants arriving in Italy, Welfare Minister Maurizio Sacconi said Thursday. Speaking a day after the Northern League reignited debate on the issue by proposing a two-year moratorium on immigrant entrants while Italy recovers from the economic crisis, Sacconi said the government was ''working together'' to come up with an acceptable plan. ''We must certainly take into account the fact that the economic crisis could result in unemployment for many immigrants already resident in our country, who could be required to leave if they don't find a new job within six months. For that reason we need to be cautious with new arrivals,'' he said. ''We are determined to contain new entrants, limiting them substantially to professionals, nurses and carers''. While the government planned to lower annual immigrant quotas, it would take ''a much more flexible line'' with highly trained professionals, he added.

But Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Wednesday urged the country to ''continue decisively in the direction'' of opening its doors to immigrants, following the examples of the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Praising the ''new energies from every part of the world'' that the influx of immigrants has brought, he said Italy should drop its ''old prejudices'' and create a ''climate of openness and appreciation towards foreigners who make themselves Italian,'' he said. Meeting representatives of 38,500 immigrants who were granted Italian citizenship in 2007, Napolitano said the number of foreigners living in Italy has tripled in the last decade and that this was ''a factor of freshness and strength for the Italian nation''. He added that while it was necessary to make the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants, there should ''be no barriers for basic human rights''. The issue of integration must meanwhile be dealt with ''seriously, avoiding hurried stopgaps that would show themselves to be artificial and fragile''. National statistics bureau Istat said Wednesday that there are now 3,433,000 foreigners living in Italy, around half a million of whom arrived in 2007.


More and more foreigners are meanwhile applying to become Italian citizens.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said Thursday that the number of successful citizenship applications doubled from 2005 to 2006, has risen slightly since, and is destined to rise at a faster rate. From 19,226 in 2005, they rose to 35,766 in 2006, 38,466 in 2007 and stood at 32,238 at the end of last month. ''These numbers, destined to progressively increase, require a commitment from institutions so that the integration of immigrants is effective - a goal that an indiscriminate opening of frontiers cannot ensure,'' the interior chief said. ''This is not exclusively a question of public order but of creating the greatest integration possible in conditions that are sustainable for the country''. Maroni stressed the need for aspiring citizens to have a working knowledge of the Italian language and share values with Italians in order to qualify for citizenship. But House Speaker Gianfranco Fini said ''the time was ripe'' to loosen citizenship requirements. Fini, who has campaigned in the past to give immigrants the vote, said ''Italian society has changed profoundly'' and it was time to ''discuss a new law''. Non-EU immigrants who have lived in Italy for ten years can apply for citizenship, while EU immigrants are eligible after four years and political refugees after five years.

There have been calls to halve the ten-year residence requirement for non-EU foreigners.

Children born in Italy automatically become citizens.

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