MILAN - Filipinos in Italy are divided over the reelection bid of three-time former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the forthcoming general elections
While some fear that his political comeback will pose a problem to the community, especially to those who do not hold Italian citizenships, other leaders in the community in Rome and Milan say there is no cause to worry about his return to politics.
The forthcoming general election is proving to be crucial to the future of Italy´s immigrant population after Berlusconi vowed to deport 600,000 illegal immigrants from Italy.
THREAT TO COMMUNITY
Former city councilor of Rome Romulo Salvador is urging Filipinos with Italian citizenship to exercise their power to vote and stop the former PM in the polls.
“We are living in this country where political campaign propaganda is negatively focused on migration and these anti immigrant declarations can only be defeated by our active votes and participation in Italy's political life,” Salvador told ABS-CBN Europe.
Anabel Mayo, president of I Colori del Mondo Adda Association, added: "If Berlusconi wins, it will be a big problem for more than 60,000 undocumented Filipinos who are still waiting to be granted amnesty or to lawfully obtain work and residence permits."
Francine Santos (not her real name), a Filipino immigrant with no resident papers, said Filipinos are hardworking people "and they should never be deported.”
"I’m afraid, if ever (Berlusconi wins), I will lose my job and would have to return to the Philippines,” she said, adding that she has savings.
Charito Basa, a development and research consultant on gender and migration, has a different analysis on the issue. She said that the government has always deported illegal migrants.
“I am pretty sure Berlusconi referred mostly to economic migrants who arrived with the refugees. But yes, of course, anyone undocumented could be affected especially those who are in detention centers.”
NO NEED TO WORRY
Unlike Salvador and Basa, another Filipino is unperturbed about the forthcoming elections.
Joel Ceredon, president of Associazione Italo-Filippina di Trieste, said there is nothing to worry about a Berlusconi victory. "It’s OK for Berlusconi to return because when he was Prime Minister, rules were followed," Ceredon said.
“Unlike today, the entry of illegal immigrants has become a business. People seek political asylum when in fact they paid the government to enter the country...Filipinos have never become a burden to the government so we should not worry,” he added.
There has been an increase in the number of Filipinos that are eligible to vote in the election after acquisition of Italian citizenship, from 488 in 2012 to 3,050 in 2015.
However, there had been a slight drop in the number of applications for citizenship granted due to marriage.
The Filipino community is one the largest non-EU communities in Italy in terms of the number of residing citizens. The Filipino community is the sixth largest in terms of the number of regularly residing citizens with a total of 167,176 Filipino citizens holding valid residence permits, comprising 4.3% of all non-EU citizens residing in Italy.
Data from the government reveal that most Filipinos in Italy are employed in the public, social and personal services sectors. They comprise 70% of workers in this sector while 94% of Filipino workers are employed in the tertiary sector. The employment rate within the Filipino community in Italy is 81.3%, the highest among the main non-EU communities.