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May 2000, Volume 7, Number 5

Southern Europe

Italy. The government of Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema resigned after suffering a defeat in local elections at the hands of the Freedom Alliance, led by the former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Anti-immigrant sentiment played a central role in the elections, with the opposition alliance proposing that Italian police have the right to fire on boats transporting illegal migrants across the Adriatic. Treasury Minister Giuliano Amato, the Socialist premier in 1992-93, was asked to form Italy's 58th government since World War II.

There are 115,000 Albanian immigrants in Italy, 45,000 of them illegal entrants; many Italians consider most Albanian migrants to be criminals. The Italian government asked Albania to do more to reduce illegal migration, and in return promised to increase the quota of legal Albanian immigrants to 6,000 a year.

Italy and Spain have the lowest fertility rates in Europe, and a UN Population Division report suggested that Italy would have to admit 2.2 million immigrants a year to keep its labor force from shrinking. Without immigration, Italy's population is projected to drop from 57 million today to 42 million in 2050.

Nevertheless, increasing immigration may be difficult because many Italians associate immigrants with criminality, and also because persisting high unemployment rates makes it hard to justify the admission of foreign workers— overall unemployment is 12 percent, but is 22 percent in the south.

Although foreigners constitute only 2.2 percent of Italian residents, they are highly visible in some places. Many immigrants set up shop around Rome's main train station.

Italy is debating whether to admit more immigrants. Interior Under-Secretary Alberto Maritati said that accepting large numbers of immigrants, as the UN recommended, "would cause rejection, insecurity... That would be dangerous to our society." Umberto Rossi, leader of Italy's Northern League, says that Italians "don't want a multiracial society." About 500,000 of Italy's foreigners are Muslims.

Turkey-Armenia. Los Angeles has the most Armenians outside Armenia, some 350,000, and every year on April 24 they close their businesses for a day to highlight the killing of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923-- considered by many historians to be the 20th century's first genocide. Armenians in 1915 were forced to migrate to the desert east of Aleppo in modern-day Syria, where many died of starvation— 50 to 60 percent of the Armenians in eastern Turkey are believed to have died. The Turkish government has long denied the allegations of genocide, saying those who died were casualties of war.

Lee Romney, "Genocide: Shopkeepers will close doors Monday to remember countrymen massacred by Turks," Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2000.