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Italy's integration minister target of racist slurs

As parliament debates decriminalizing illegal immigration

14 January, 18:54
Italy's integration minister target of racist slurs (ANSA) - Rome, January 14 - The anti-immigration Northern League's newspaper La Padania on Tuesday published Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge's daily schedule as Italy's parliament debated abolishing a League-sponsored law criminalizing illegal immigration.

The so-called Bossi-Fini law was ratified under the previous center-right administration, in which the League was a minority coalition partner. Kyenge, a Congolese-born Italian, has been the target of repeated racist slurs from the Northern League since becoming integration minister under the current left-right administration led by Democratic Party (PD) Premier Enrico Letta.

"Kyenge is in favor of Negritude like in France, but we can do without it," Northern League Senate whip Massimo Bitonci said during the debate on the floor.

The PD promptly blasted the League and Bitonci's statement as racist and subversive.

"Bitonci peppered his speech on the proposed abolition of the anti-immigration law with racist and sexist abuse against Minister Kyenge. His action goes hand in hand with La Padania's extremely grave initiative targeting the minister," said Democratic Party MP Anna Finocchiaro, who chairs parliament's Constitutional Affairs Commission. "The League newspaper's decision to publish Minister Kyenge's schedule is tantamount to intimidation. Before taking further action, we urge the League to call its party newspaper to order," said PD Senators Mauro Del Barba and Roberto Cociancich. "The PD will do everything in its power to ratify the Ius Soli law (granting automatic citizenship for all children born in Italy'," they added. "Our homegrown racists think they're living in Alabama or Mississippi half a century ago, or in South Africa under apartheid. Someone please tell them we live in the third millennium in a civilized country," Left Ecology and Freedom (SEL) party leader Nichi Vendola tweeted.

"The League is trying to regain lost consensus by taking subversive positions. The PD's answer is to call for Ius Soli and abolition of the crime of clandestine immigration," said Senator Mario Morgoni, who is in the PD leadership.

"Racism and verbal violence have become the League's distinguishing characteristics, in the absence of an actual program. What was once a grassroots movement appears to have turned into a xenophobic lair," said Davide Faraone, who runs the PD education and welfare committee.

"We urge the judiciary to look into this matter. Cecile Kyenge is a wise and courageous woman as well as a tenacious and determined democratic minister," said Sandra Zampa, another top PD member.

Also on Tuesday, the Northern League said it was ready to "welcome" Kyenge in Milan on Saturday, when she is scheduled to launch the Romact/Romed2 program of intercultural mediators for the Roma people, who are heavily discriminated against in Italy.

"The minister for the 'disintegration' of our communities will be in Milan on Saturday. We will be there too," said Northern League provincial secretary Igor Iezzi, who is also an elected city official.