Immigration has been thrust to the fore of Italy’s election campaign after a politician from a right-wing party warned that “the white race” was in danger of dying out.
The debate over race, integration and multiculturalism is shaping up as one of the key issues in the March 4 election, in a country which has rescued around 600,000 migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean in the last four years, most of whom arrived by boat from Libya.
Attilio Fontana, a prominent politician from the Right-wing Northern League, said the “white race” in Italy could face extinction unless the number of migrants entering the country was drastically reduced.
“We have to decide if our ethnicity, if our white race, if our society continues to exist or if it will be canceled out,” said Mr Fontana, who is the League’s candidate to become the next governor of Lombardy, the wealthy northern region that includes Milan.
An unwillingness to take in “all” migrants was not “a question of being xenophobic or racist, but a question of being logical or rational,” he said.
His remarks were condemned by the centre-Left, but he received the endorsement of Matteo Salvini, the leader of the National League, who said that Islam and the migrant “invasion” posed a grave threat to Italian society.
“We are under attack. Our culture, society, traditions and way of life are at risk,” Mr Salvini said. “The colour of one’s skin has nothing to do with it, but the risk is very real. Centuries of history risk disappearing if Islamisation, which up until now has been underestimated, gains the upper hand.”
The Northern League has long campaigned against immigration but other parties are also playing on the fear factor as the election date approaches.