Voters in Lombardy, the region of northern Italy that includes Milan, elected a new governor this week, giving a landslide victory to a right-wing candidate who said during the campaign that Italy must expel hundreds of thousands of immigrants in order to defend the “white race.”
Attilio Fontana, a candidate of the Northern League, made the remark in January as he tried to explain why his party’s promise to “stop the invasion” of Italy by African immigrants was not racist.
Speaking on his party’s radio station, Fontana said that the league’s promise to deport all 600,000 undocumented immigrants who have arrived in Italy since 2014, mostly from Africa, was “not an issue of being xenophobic or racist, but a question of being logical or rational.”
“We can’t take in everyone,” he argued, “because if we did, we would no longer be ourselves as a social reality, as an ethnic reality. Because there are many more of them than us, and they are much more determined to occupy this territory.”
“We have to decide if our ethnicity, if our white race, if our society should continue to exist or if it should be wiped out,” Fontana said.
When the final ballots were tallied on Tuesday in Milan, however, Gori was a distant second, more than 20 percentage points behind Fontana.
A Pew Research Center survey on diversity published in 2016 suggests that anti-immigrant views are not confined to a fringe of Italians. A clear majority of Italians, 53 percent, said that “having an increasing number of people of many different races, ethnic groups and nationalities in our country” made Italy a worse place to live. Only 18 percent told researchers that immigration made Italy a better place to live. In the United States, Pew found very different attitudes, with 58 percent saying that increasing diversity makes the country a better place to live and just 7 percent saying it makes it worse.
The Pew survey also revealed that across Europe, where countries are still largely defined as nation-states, or primarily homelands for one ethnic group, immigration is seen as negative by large portions of the population, despite the relaxation of internal borders in the E.U. and the bloc’s willingness to offer refuge to Syrians fleeing the war in their country.