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Italian report
by Euro Reporter
2013-11-05 13:07:28
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Italy struggles to deal with migrant influx

As Italy reels from its worst economic crisis in 60 years and unemployment continues to soar, migrants arriving in search of a better life are instead finding disappointment and squalor. Last month, Italy asked for a complete overhaul of European asylum policies after hundreds of African migrants died when their boat sunk off the coast of Sicily.  Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said ahead of a European Council meeting that the tragedy, which killed as many as 550 migrants, would not be the last of its kind. He urged the European Union to recognize the crisis as a matter of joint EU responsibility.  Many more migrants successfully arrive to Italy, and Rome is struggling to deal with the growing influx. EU law obliges all refugees to stay in the country where they receive asylum. Those who manage to escape registration often go further north, but those who can’t are stuck in Italy and are running out of options. Italy’s current economic problems - it’s in its worst recession since World War II - mean that there are very few opportunities for newly arrived migrants.

Most of them are forced to live in cramped hostels like the ironically named Salam Palace - meaning “peace palace” in Arabic - which is housed in a former university building. Over 1200 refugees from four African nations have been given a temporary home in the hostel, which is more of a refugee ghetto than a palace of peace. “There are 35 baths and 35 showers and 80 percent of them need to be repaired. The beds are also in very bad condition. Actually, a lot of people sleep on cardboard,” Donatello d’Angelo, a doctor from the World Citizen association who works with refugees from the hostel, told RT. Residents of the hostel are also unhappy with their accommodation. “We thought that we could get a better life here, but not [the case],” Kidane, a refugee, said. “It’s like we’re still in Africa,” another refugee stated. But these are some of the lucky ones. As many hostels run out of room, immigrants are forced to join drunks, drug addicts, and Italy’s own homeless population at public train stations.

Such locations offer a place to meet others in the same boat, and a chance to make a bit of cash through begging or busking during the day. The stations double as makeshift shelters at night. “There are quite a lot of [refugees] here from different nationalities. First they came from southern countries, now they are also from eastern ones. The whole region is full of immigrants,” a Rome resident told RT. “Sometimes immigrants from different countries fight each other, like Albanians and those from Bangladesh, for example,” said another woman. “Italy is alone, Europe must solve this problem,” a local man said.


Politician slammed for posting picture of Italy's black minister as monkey 

Italian Northern League party member Fabio Ranieri posted a picture on social media with the head of a monkey on the body of Cecile Kyenge, the country's first black minister. Ranieri later apologized and took the post down. A furious battle over race has been reignited in Italy after an anti-immigration supporter posted a picture of a black minister with the head of a monkey. The offensive image appeared on the public Facebook page of Fabio Ranieri, a member of Italy's Northern League party, according to The Local.

It was an apparent reference to Italy's integration minister, Cecile Kyenge, Italy's first black minister who has been the subject of racist attacks throughout the year. The image, which has now been removed, is displayed alongside the words "Guess who it is???" Contacted by the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, Ranieri denied anything was wrong or that he was responsible. "It's not written anywhere, there's no reference to her. If you say so then I'll take legal action," he said. The former lawmaker even claimed that he had nothing to do with the post. "I didn't write it, it was whoever manages my Facebook page," he said.

After the post was taken down, Ranieri said, "I took it down because I don't like this kind of thing. Cartoons are fine, but not this kind of thing." It is not the first time Kyenge, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has suffered such an attack. Earlier this year, a leading member of the Northern League, Roberto Calderoli, compared the minister to an orangutan, but said he had not meant to be racist. Another Northern League councilor even called for the minister to be raped. Kyenge has also had bananas thrown at her during a public rally. A poll last month found that one fifth of Italians thought having a black minister was wrong.


Italy justice minister faces calls to quit over influence allegations

Italian Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri faced calls to resign on Saturday over accusations she used her influence to get the ailing daughter of a former insurance magnate out of prison. The loss of an influential minister could further destabilize Prime Minister Enrico Letta's fragile right-left coalition, where tensions are already running high ahead of a vote to expel centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi from parliament later this month over his conviction for tax fraud. The opposition 5-Star Movement said on Friday it would present a no-confidence motion against Cancellieri. The Democratic Party (PD), the largest bloc supporting the government, called on her to address parliament on the matter. Cancellieri rejected the resignation demands, saying she stepped in only because of her concern for the health of Giulia Ligresti, former insurance mogul Salvatore Ligresti's oldest daughter, and that she had done the same for dozens of others.

"I had a duty to do what I did for a person suffering from anorexia who had not eaten for days and who has small children," Cancellieri told reporters after speaking at the Radical Party congress in Chianciano Terme, Italy, on Saturday. For the first time the prime minister weighed in on the matter on Saturday, saying the government was "certain" that the minister's testimony in parliament would "dispel all doubt," a statement said. Cancellieri will testify in parliament on Tuesday, a spokesman said. The scandal erupted on Thursday when la Repubblica newspaper printed the transcript of a tapped phone call between the justice minister and the wife of Ligresti on the day he was arrested, along with his two daughters and ex-company managers. "You can count on me," Cancellieri said according to a transcript of the July 17 call seen by Reuters. The recording was made as part of a Turin court investigation into false accounting and market manipulation at insurer Fondiaria-SAI, which the Ligresti family controlled until last year.

On August 28, after members of the Ligresti family and the minister exchanged several text messages and calls regarding Giulia's health in the previous weeks, she was freed from prison and put under house arrest. The Turin court said on Friday that the minister's actions had no influence on her release from prison. Instead, the court said, she was let go after a medical examination found her continued imprisonment would have been a "danger" to her health, and after she agreed to accept a plea bargain. But her long friendship with the Ligresti family and the fact Cancellieri's son, Piergiorgio Peluso, earned several million Euros as an executive at Fondiaria-SAI when he worked there for little over a year in 2011-2012 has fuelled criticism that the minister acted out of a conflict of interest. The minister's actions "could appear to be the payment of a debt after her son's gain," 5-Star leader Beppe Grillo wrote on his blog on Saturday. "Cancellieri is part of a world made up of politicians, bankers, institutions, investors who are all inextricably linked as if in a petrified forest."


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