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Frattini discusses immigration issues, rights in U.S. university lecture

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In a lecture at the University of Wisconsin last week, Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, the equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of State, discussed immigration and the rights of immigrant workers, emphasizing the global nature of migration issues. In his speech, he explored how Italy has experienced recent immigration to its shores and what nations around the world can do for and expect of migrants.


Said Frattini, “Throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Yet I believe that we need to change –if not completely – our traditional way of thinking about migration as a world of loss and sorrow. In Italy, in particular, we have been holding an open debate on immigration for years now. This is most likely because our country’s history has traditionally been linked to the phenomenon of emigration and it is only fairly recently that we have had to face immigration issues. For a long time we have seen immigration essentially as a tragic phenomenon that involved the world’s poorest people. We felt morally obliged to provide assistance and support to these people once they had reached terra incognita, regardless of any evaluation of whether they had respected the legal migration procedures or of the social impact of their influx."


Citing U.N. statistics, Frattini noted that there are more than 200 million migrant workers throughout the world, 31 million of whom legally reside in the European Union. Additionally, the almost 4 million migrants legally residing in Italy now account for 7.1 percent of the population. “These figures are too large to warrant a passive or individualistic approach,” Frattini said, “a single state cannot cope with such onerous figures…This is particularly true in the European Union, where we have created an area that envisages the free movement of people. And it is especially true in Italy, given our geographical location as a bridge between two continents. When migrants land on the shores of Sicily they can easily move on: to Austria, say, and then to Germany and the Netherlands. The issue does not stop at Italy’s borders: it becomes European.”  


Frattini encouraged countries around the world to look at migration as a source of enrichment – to both their new country of residence and their country of origin, which receives support from those who find work in other locales – and not a threat. The minister advocated for fundamental rights of migrant workers, access to clear information for potential immigrants and cooperation between countries of settlement and origin to curb the flow of illegal immigration.


“Integration itself is a two-way process,” Frattini added. “Legal migrants must see their rights recognised and their duties assigned. As a matter of fact, the acquisition of rights goes hand in hand with the acceptance of duties. If migrants want to be fully integrated in our societies they have to abide by the law, learn the local language and respect our values such as human rights, women's rights and even the duty to send children to school. They should also get acquainted with both our traditions and cultural heritage. In other words, legal migrants should not only restrain themselves from pursuing aggressive strategies against the fundamental values of the destination country but they also have to acquire the necessary cultural and social means in order to actively interact with local people.”


To read his speech in its entirety, click here.