Italy is one of the chief destinations of migrants from Albania, Africa, China, Eastern Europe (especially Romania), and the Philippines. Its lengthy coastline invites a commercial traffic of clandestine immigration, and there have been many tragic drownings when boats carrying would-be migrants capsized. More than 2.3 million immigrants, almost all of them comparatively recent arrivals, possessed a permesso di soggiorno (residency permit) in January 2005. This influx of migrants, who have been drawn to Italy by the economic difficulties of Africa and Eastern Europe, the ease with which immigrants can obtain undocumented work on the black market, and the shortage of Italians willing to do jobs involving hard manual labor, has turned Italy into a multicultural society in the space of little more than a decade. As recently as the early 1990s, Italy was a highly homogeneous society. Immigration has been regulated by a series of laws (the “Martelli law” of 1990, the “Turco-Napolitano” law of 1997, and the “Bossi-Fini” law of 2002) that have tried to regulate the phenomenon and, more recently, appease growing anti-immigrant sentiment. Political parties such as the Lega Nord/Northern League (LN) have capitalized on some of the social problems worsened by the recent migratory wave (petty criminality, prostitution, etc.) to campaign against the multicultural society more generally. On the other hand, in many cities, language and job-training programs are available, as are municipal centers to offer assistance in finding housing and in adjusting to Italian life. Although the political parties of the right dislike immigration, there is little doubt that Italy needs to accommodate itself to the reality of becoming a less homogeneous society. Italy has one of the lowest demographic growth rates in the world and needs migration to maintain its standard of living.
   See also Population.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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