Multi-Culturalism Is Not Wanted In Italy: Premier

ROME: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has attacked immigration and foreign cultures in an apparent bid to raise his poor ratings before a general election in two weeks’ time. We don’t want Italy to become a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural country. We are proud of our culture and traditions, Berlusconi told Italian public radio in an interview. We want to accept foreigners who are fleeing countries where their life and freedom are threatened but we don’t want to open our doors to everyone who comes here, creating problems and dangers for Italians, he said. Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition, which also includes the xenophobic far-right Northern League, is trailing the centre-left opposition in the opinion polls. The latest survey, published on March 24, credited the centre-left alliance led by Romano Prodi with more than 51% of the vote in the April 9-10 election, compared to nearly 47% for the right-wing coalition led by Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. On a personal level, only 34.5% favoured Berlusconi to lead Italy again, compared to 43.4% for Prodi, a former president of the European Commission. But, perhaps crucially for the prime minister, the survey showed around 30% of the electorate were still undecided. I shivered the other day when I heard (Communist Party leader Oliviero) Diliberto say on television that he had no problem with the introduction of lessons on _Qur’anic religion’ in schools because, according to him, in a few years’ time half the pupils would be Catholic and the other half Muslims, Berlusconi said. His comments drew a sharp reaction from the Democrats of the Left (DS), the leading party in the centre-left opposition alliance.The fact that the head of the government has not yet realised that Italy is already a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious country says a lot about the government’s understanding of immigration, a leading DS politician commented. A report published earlier on Monday showed the number of immigrants had doubled to 3.3mn between 2002 and 2005, of whom 540,000 were illegal migrants. The report by the ISMU foundation on multi-ethnic studies said immigrants owned 14% of the country’s property and made up 32.2% of its prison population, even though they represented just 5.7% of the population nationwide.