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November 2002, Volume 9, Number 11

Portugal, Italy, Turkey

Portugal has an estimated 200,000 migrants from the ex-USSR, chiefly from Ukraine, Romania, Moldavia; they are half of the 400,000 migrants in Portugal. Traditionally, migrants to Portugal had come from the former African colonies of Brazil and Portugal, such as the Cape Verde islands and Angola.

Portugal is considered one of the easiest EU countries to enter, and legalization programs in the mid-1980s, 1996 and 2001 allowed 130,000 foreigners to become legal residents. Most of the unauthorized ex-USSR migrants entered Portugal on tourist visas, and then went to work at wages that were five to six times earnings at home. To prevent more "tourist workers" from arriving, Portugal is requiring foreigners who want to work to get work visas in their country of origin; about 27,000 work permits are expected to be issued to non-EU foreigners in 2002, mainly for bricklayers' assistants, cleaners, waiters, cooks and dishwashers.

There are still four million Portuguese migrants abroad, and they remit an estimated $3.3 billion a year.

Many foreign companies established plants in Portugal to produce clothing, footwear and textiles, but some are shutting plants and moving to Eastern Europe, where wages are lower. Portugal's economy minister says "If we are to remain competitive in an enlarged EU, we have to accelerate the structural reforms that have been postponed for so long in Portugal." Many Portuguese firms invest abroad: some $13 billion in Brazil alone over the past six years.

Portugal is reforming its social security system to allow some worker contributions to be invested in private sector funds. A second reform would consolidate 80 separate pieces of labor legislation into a single labor code designed to bring greater flexibility and efficiency to the labor market. During Portugal's first 16 years in the EU, its GDP per capita increased from 53 percent to 74 percent of the EU average.

Italy. Italy announced that it would accept 20,500 non-EU workers, including 3,000 from Albania; 2,000 each from Tunisia and Morocco; 1,000 each from Egypt and Sri Lanka; and 500 each from Nigeria and Moldavia.

Deputy Prime Minister Gianfranco Fini in October 2002 asserted that the "Italian people have always had a tradition of warm welcome and respect [to foreigners]. Being Italian means being an heir to the Roman tradition that saw those people whom they have conquered with military force as Roman citizens." Fini declared war "on clandestine immigrants in Italy," asking unauthorized foreign workers to report on employers who do not attempt to regularize them.

Turkey. Turkey goes to the polls November 3, 2002, and 10 days before the election, the government moved to ban the Justice and Development party, which leads all other parties in polls, with support from 30 percent of the voters. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul, had been barred from running for office because of a conviction for reading a poem in 1997 that a court said incited religious hatred. However Erdogan remained chairman of the party, and that was the reason the government gave for outlawing the party.

Turkey shares a 220-mile border with Iraq, and the 3.5 million Kurds in Northern Iraq are expected to declare their independence when US bombs hit Baghdad. There are 13 million Kurds in southeastern Turkey, which opposes an independent Kurdistan. Turkey has 3,000 to 5,000 troops in northern Iraq to contain the remnants of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a group that fled Turkey after a cease-fire in 1999. There are 22 million Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, making them one of the largest language and cultural groups without an independent country.

Peter Wise, "Immigrants now represent one-tenth of Portugal's total workforce," Financial Times, October 21, 2002.