“Let’s go into the streets – we need to educate the people that immigration isn’t an issue that will end; it will stay with us even in the next generation." – Emma Bonino
The issue of immigration and refugees has become a global phenomenon and epidemic.
In Italy, legal immigrants constitute 8 percent of the population. In other words, they represent more than 6 million people nationwide. We also host over 500,000 illegal immigrants who are kept in a state of immigration ‘limbo’ given no one knows exactly where they came from.
Recent immigration statistics show that asylum requests in Italy are now rejected in at least 50 percent of cases.
Finding a solution to the immigration epidemic is not easy or clear. Over the years, a whirlwind of "resolutions" have surfaced, including employing asylum seekers in community service projects and building new immigration centers in every Italian region. So far, no proposal has been able to adequately and humanely respond to Italy's immigration needs.
The new proposal
Bonino, along with Enzo Bianco, the mayor of Catania and president ANCI, will lead a battle in the Italian Senate over the next few months with a new proposal to end the war on immigration once and for all.
The initiative, referred to as "Voltare pagina" (Turn the page), seeks a completely different approach to immigration policy involving the cooperation of governmental officials, national organizations, confederal unions and the local community.
Bonino and her associates also plan to transpose Voltare Pagina's mission into a new legislative bill that calls on the Italian government to meet five key objectives:
- I. Focus on receiving immigrants
- II. Strengthen the Sprar immigration system
- III. Increase the effectiveness of employment centers and allow asylum seekers to request work permits (even if denied asylum)
- IV. Create specialized governmental branches solely for asylum seekers and refugees
- V. Re-implement the sponsor system, similar to the past model of the ‘Turco-Napolitano’ initiative
As explained by Riccardo Magi, the main collective objective of the new approach seeks to regularize those who come to Italy and have provided ‘social and productive forces to the territory that welcomes them’.
The short end of the stick?
Bonino’s latest proposal has sparked an array of national reactions and criticisms.
For example, locals are concerned that the employment benefits supported by new legislative initiative will worsen the existing economic problems in Italy, which already hosts over 5 million of its own people living in poverty, including 40 percent of youth who are unemployed.
As pointed out by Bonino, however, the new initiative still prioritizes the economic rights and benefits of Italian citizens over those of immigrants. In other words, the new legislative proposal does not impede on Italy’s ability to eradicate the war on poverty.
Government officials are also worried that an increase in immigrants will increase with it the already concerning risk of terrorist attacks in Italy. But the new initiative does not negate from the standard “screening process” applied to incoming immigrants. Hence, such arguments are ill founded.
A call for new energy
“We need to acknowledge that our own countries need new energy," Emma Bonino says. Her words offer a sound conclusion as to why her new initiative is no longer a consideration, but a necessity.
Given the effects of globalization and the war on terrorism, immigration will not go away. Unless a new "energy" is not found in Italy and around the world, the immigration epidemic will see no resolution.