Immigration in Italy: Fact-checking five common myths and assumptions

A right-wing coalition shepherded by ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is capitalizing on anti-immigrant feeling in the lead up to Italy's general elections on March 4th.

Immigration in Italy: Fact-checking five common myths and assumptions
Migrants cross the mountain border between Italy and France. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

Here are five sets of facts about common complaints, misconceptions and other aspects of immigration in Italy:

1. 'Too many of them'

Italy's national statistics institute Istat says that there are five million foreigners legally resident in Italy. That's 8.3 percent of the country's population of 60.5 million.

More than 690,000 migrants, most from Sub-Saharan Africa, have arrived by boat from Libya since 2013. Migration study foundation ISMU estimates that around 500,000 are living in the country illegally — 0.9 percent of the population.

2. 'They cost us money'

Government figures put the cost in 2017 of migrants arriving via Libya at more than 4.2 billion euros, of which 65 percent was spent on taking care of asylum seekers during their application process.

According to a study by the Idos Institute, overall immigrants bring in between 2.1 and 2.8 billion euros more than they cost the state.

3. 'They laze about all day'

“People go crazy there. There are many young people whose brains just go numb after a few months,” says Moussa Bamba, a 32-year-old Ivorian. He spent several months crammed in a crowded reception centre near Venice with 1,400 other migrants.

Italy launches first official migrant integration plan: Five things you need to know
People sit outside a migrant assistance centre in Ventimiglia. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The Conetta facility was dubbed a “human warehouse” by local mayor Alberto Panfilio. While some facilities offer activities and support, others are accused of scrimping on costs while immigrants wait for up to two years on a decision on their status.

4. 'They bring crime'

Italy's Interior Ministry says the crime rate has dropped by 8.3 percent the last ten years, despite the fact that the number of foreigners in the country has increased from three to five million.

Figures presented by the ministry showed that in 2017 murders dropped by nearly 12 percent, robberies by 11 percent and burglaries by nine percent.

5. 'It's an invasion'

A controversial agreement signed by Rome with the Libyan authorities and militias last summer reduced arrivals by 70 percent. The government also oversaw a 12 percent increase in expulsions last year, from 5,817 in 2016 to 6,514.


Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents’ rights

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Milan on Saturday in protest against a new government directive stopping local authorities from registering the births of same-sex couples' children.

Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents' rights

“You explain to my son that I’m not his mother,” read one sign held up amid a sea of rainbow flags that filled the northern city’s central Scala Square.

Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016, but opposition from the Catholic Church meant it stopped short of granting gay couples the right to adopt.

Decisions have instead been made on a case-by-case basis by the courts as parents take legal action, although some local authorities decided to act unilaterally.

Milan’s city hall had been recognising children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy, which is illegal in Italy, or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available for heterosexual couples.

But its centre-left mayor Beppe Sala revealed earlier this week that this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

“It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view, and I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan,” he said in a podcast, vowing to fight the change.

Milan's mayor Giuseppe Sala

Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala has assured residents that he will fight to have the new government directive overturned. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Fabrizio Marrazzo of the Gay Party said about 20 children are waiting to be registered in Milan, condemning the change as “unjust and discriminatory”.

A mother or father who is not legally recognised as their child’s parent can face huge bureaucratic problems, with the risk of losing the child if the registered parent dies or the couple’s relationship breaks down.

Elly Schlein, newly elected leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, was among opposition politicians who attended the protest on Saturday, where many campaigners railed against the new government.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party came top in the September elections, puts a strong emphasis on traditional family values.

“Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby!” she said in a speech last year before her election at the head of a right-wing coalition that includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Earlier this week, a Senate committee voted against an EU plan to oblige member states to recognise the rights of same-sex parents granted elsewhere in the bloc.