Immigrants in Italy a 'social time bomb', says Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi has 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 the country's election campaign.
The three-times prime minister called for unauthorised migrants to be repatriated and for the creation of a Marshall Plan for Africa to create jobs that would dissuade migrants from leaving their home countries in the first place.
He made the remarks after a lone gunman went on a shooting spree in a central Italian town on Saturday, wounding six black migrants in apparent retaliation for the brutal murder and dismemberment of an Italian teenager, allegedly by a Nigerian immigrant.
Echoing the language of the hard-right, anti-immigration Northern League, a party he is in alliance with, Mr Berlusconi said: "In Italy today, we have 630,000 migrants, of whom only 30,000, or 5pc, have the right to be here, having been recognised as refugees. The others represent a social bomb that is ready to explode. Immigration is a very urgent issue."
Italy has been inundated with migrants and refugees, with 600,000 arriving in the last four years after being rescued in the Mediterranean, and many ordinary Italians say that enough is enough.
It is estimated that there are around 500,000 unauthorised 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 waiting to hear whether they will be granted asylum.
Mr Berlusconi leads a centre-right coalition that is expected to win the most votes of any political force when Italians vote in the March 4 election. He cannot be prime minister because of a ban on holding public office resulting from a tax fraud conviction.
© Daily Telegraph London