Top Cardinal Sounds Alarm Over Emigration Crisis Out of Italy

Italian cardinal Angelo Bagnasco arrives for a meeting on the eve of the start of a conclave on March 11, 2013 at the Vatican. Cardinals will hold a final set of meetings on Monday before they are locked away to choose a new pope to lead the Roman Catholic Church …
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The President of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) has denounced the forced exodus of Italy’s best and brightest, warning that the loss of talented Italian citizens is “depleting” the country.

In his state-of-the-Italian-Church address Monday before his fellow bishops, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco tied the high levels of Italian emigration to an ongoing economic crisis that has dried up the jobs market and left many Italians in dire financial straits.

“The official figures speak for themselves,” Bagnasco said, noting Italy’s grim economic statistics.

“New contracts have decreased by 12.1 percent, GDP is not growing, unemployment among those aged 15 to 24 years has risen to 39.2 percent and industrial production has diminished by 0.8 percent,” he said.

In his dour opening address to the Permanent Council of the CEI, the Cardinal said that the worst fallout of the crisis may very well be a drain on Italy’s most precious resource: its citizens, and especially the young.

“We are deeply concerned that the patrimony of skillfulness and ingenuity of our people is being forced to emigrate, thus impoverishing the country,” he said.

Flight from the Italian homeland comes from desperation, Bagnasco proposed, as young people look toward a future that offers little hope of a better life.

“Confidence in the future diminishes,” he said, “and adults who have lost their jobs are disheartened or desperate, while many young people—who often exhibit remarkable ingenuity and ability—are giving up and cling to their parents or grandparents, incapable of making a life for themselves.”

The Cardinal’s words followed hard on the heels of recent reports that Italy finds itself in the midst of a serious emigration crisis.

Last week, the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) released its 2016 International Migration Outlook report, revealing that Italy is among the countries with the most marked increase in emigration over recent years.

The number of Italians emigrating from their home country more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, according to the report, coinciding with a correlative increase in immigrants entering the country.

Italy has been inundated with migrants over the past several years, notably from sub-Saharan Africa, a trend that is showing no signs of abating. What is less obvious but equally striking is the reverse trend in Italians choosing to leave their country in search of better living conditions.

Italy’s migration outflow grew from 125,730 persons in 2013 to 136,330 in 2014, the report states. And in just four years—from 2010 to 2014—emigration of Italian citizens more than doubled. The main destination countries of the emigrants were the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland and France.

In his opening speech, Bagnasco also reminded his hearers that Italy stands on the front lines of Europe’s immigration crisis as well, and finds itself “too alone” in dealing with the waves of immigrants that daily arrive on its shores.

According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), more than 150,000 “irregular” immigrants reached Italian shores in 2015, while in the first quarter of 2016 the number of new arrivals by sea showed a marked increase of 42 percent over the same period in 2015.

From 2014 to 2015, the number of asylum applications in Italy increased by more than 31 percent, with the majority of immigrants proceeding from Nigeria, Pakistan and Gambia.

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