The First Circles
The First Circles
Milano during the New Year's celebrations. Pundits, predicting an enigmatic year, have designated it as 008. ...
... It's a sonny day in Milano, with mild temperatures. During New Year's Eve the city was festive. The next day it became a ghost town, with stores closed, restaurants locked, supermarkets padlocked.
A few lights could be seen here and there shining through windows of either movie theaters or coffee shops/bars. We excluded the movies as a recreation form, since most of them we'd seen in the U.S. and the few Italian films were unsuitable for the whole family.
Settling for one of the few open bars, we were welcomed by a courteous … Chinese staff. Indeed, those few bars open are owned and operated by Chinese immigrants.
Italians (especially those who complain of hardship and, according to a recent survey, represent the majority) are presumably on vacation.
Also belonging to Chinese and Moroccan immigrants are those few open restaurants.
It is clear that those immigrants are not afraid to work even in New Year's Day.
Italians, on the other hand, tend to enjoy their pensions. In an adult population of 49 million, 22.3 million are retired. For this reason, immigrants offer not just a useful service, but a needed one. Imagine the U.S. without Mexican immigrants: in a few days the country would be paralyzed.
Immigration in Italy is not just matter of necessity, but of public service: it is the only practical way to confront the almighty unions which tend to approach work as an enemy to subdue and, if possible, to defeat. For unions in Italy, the less work for all, the better it is for many (witness the fights to shorten the work-week, for more holidays, for keeping shorter store hours). Ultimately, though, the same workers will have to pay the consequences, since not being able to afford house-help, they have constantly rush around in order to reach the stores and offices before they close. Plus, this attitude deprives people of opportunities for overtime and second jobs.
Last year, the New Year also means the addition of two countries to the European Union (EU): Romania and Bulgaria, for a total of 30 million additional citizens.
While prime minister Romano Prodi admitted that "[Italian] people were afraid for this expansion" and that Romania "is a country that at times has caused problems," in 2007 the EU extended to 27 countries and 487 million people (versus 300 million in the United States in 50 states), without first solving the problems that afflicted the EU when it consisted of only 15 countries.
With Romania and Bulgaria in the EU, Italy has had new and fresh manpower for jobs that Italians don't want anymore: nurses, truck drivers, caretakers, plumbers, bricklayers, farmers, waiters, metalworkers, cleaners, etc. This because Italians prefer to wait for secure and undemanding employment with the post office or municipalities. For this reason, 50% of Italy's GNP is now taken by the public sector.
It is estimated that 60,000 Rumanians have arrived in Italy since last year (added to the 297,500 who were already legally in the country, and those unaccounted for such as gypsies, for a total of 400,000). Of this new immigration wave, it is estimated that 40,000 have "invaded" Milano. Unfortunately, Italy is not prepared. "The central government has not planed for this," stated Mariolina Moioli of Milano's municipality to the daily "Il Corriere della Sera." And Milano mayor Letizia Moratti is now asking for "a task force to deal with this nomad emergency."
The feared danger is a crime wave tied to drugs, prostitution and human trafficking.
To deal with this "emergency" and to manage this new wave of immigrants, the Italian government has requested the assistance of Romanian police.
Last year, the Italian Minister of Interiors, Giuliano Amato, signed a cooperation agreement with the Romanian government to fight organized crime. In addition, an agreement signed in 2003 by then Italian minister of Justice, Roberto Castelli, called for Romanians caught in criminal acts in Italy to be jailed in Romania. This serves two purposes: First to ease the crowded Italian prisons, and second to discourage crime, since in comparison with Romanian jails, those in Italy are considered recreation spas.
Meanwhile, to beg for some loose change, improvised musicians have assaulted the subway cars in Milano's underground, annoying passengers by playing violins, guitars and accordions.