It seems the path to electoral victory in Europe and many parts of the world is paved with an anti-migrant campaign. Silvio Berlusconi, 3-times Prime Minister of Italy is staging a comeback with messages of fear about migrants.
He claimed there are 600,000 illegal immigrants living in Italy and warned that they represent a “social time bomb”, as issues of race and violence took centre-stage in Italy’s election campaign.
He made this remark in the aftermath of a lone gunman who went on a shooting spree of African migrants on Saturday injuring six in retaliation for the killing of an Italian teenage girl, allegedly by a Nigerian immigrant.
“In Italy today we have 630,000 migrants, of whom only 30,000, or five per cent, have the right to be here, having been recognized as refugees. The others represent a social bomb that is ready to explode. Immigration is a very urgent issue,” Berlusconi said.
It is estimated that there are around 500,000 unauthorized migrants in Italy – their applications for asylum were turned down by the state but they stayed anyway, subsisting as best they can on seasonal work, part-time jobs and begging. Many women are forced into prostitution on the streets.
There are a further 200,000 migrants who are waiting to hear whether they will be granted asylum.
Berlusconi’s alarmist language appeared to have been co-opted from Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, who recently said that if he was elected prime minister one of his principal objectives would be to expel half a million migrants.
“We consider it an absolute priority to take back control of the situation,” said Mr. Berlusconi, who cannot be prime minister because of a ban on holding public office resulting from a tax fraud conviction.
Political opponents accused him of commandeering the inflammatory rhetoric of the League in order to win votes.