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Italy's Immigration Agita

Turin is an example of Italy's unsteady future.

11:00 PM, Nov 8, 2007 • By GERALD ROBBINS
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Civic outreach towards the émigrés has been uneven. The Romanian community garners more political interest due to their nation's recently acquired membership--linguistic compatibility with Italian also helps. On the other hand, Turin's Islamic population isn't seen as a potential voting bloc worth cultivating. There's an Islamic cultural center that the city helped establish in one of the outlying neighborhoods, but its effectiveness addressing societal concerns is muted.

The nationwide Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy (UCOII) is another outlet, but all politics is local in Italy, particularly at the municipal level. Turin, Bologna, and Florence are all governed by Communist administrations, but their attitudes towards immigration markedly differ. Whereas Turin exhibits a moderate, somewhat nonchalant attitude towards the issue, its civic comrades adopt hardline policies. Some observers see the discrepancy emanating from Turin's experience with southern Italian migration, a proportional matter which less industrialized Bologna and Florence didn't have to confront. Whatever the explanation might be, the immigration issue tests party cohesion throughout the Italian landscape.

Less than 10 percent of Turin's 900,000 inhabitants are immigrants. The city's Islamic population roughly stands at 40,000 but that doesn't include illegal arrivals. Based on these figures, fears about an Islamicized Turin seem exaggerated. It shouldn't be completely dismissed however. Only 15 percent of Turin's residents are under eighteen years old, while nearly a third are of retirement age. The aging social infrastructure, culturally dissonant migration, and disjointed governmental responses point to an unsteady future.

Gerald Robbins specializes in Turkish affairs at the Foreign Research Policy Institute.