"A fascist answer to their voters" (english)
The following interview sheds some light on the new immigration law in Italy — which condemns every illegal immigrant to the condition of a "criminal" — as seen by the migrant transgender activist Leila Pereira Daianis.
Leila, could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Leila Pereira Daianis, I was born in Brazil 54 years ago, and my family is from Pernambuco, in the Brazilian Northeast. I graduated at the University of São Paulo (USP) in philosophy and language but I specialized in Greek Mythology and Theater.
I've been living in Rome, Italy, for thirty years and I work with women's social problems and mainly the LGBTS (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders and Supporters) group. I am also a theater actress and I use the Theater of the Oppressed (now Forum Theater) method. The last work that I did in Italy was the Myth of Medea by Euripides. The modern adaptation "Hello Medea" was done by me and the director Gianluca Bottoni. I am active, as coordinator for Italy, with the association of Brazilians in Europe.
Are you member of an organization? Which one? How do you participate?
I am part of the "Libellula Association" that is in charge of issues of gender identity and it offers medical, psychological and juridical assistance to female to male and male to female transgenders. Lately our association is also in charge of women's and immigrant problems.
Could you give us an update on the new law of Berlusconi's government against immigrants?
The law is not new and it is not only from Berlusconi's government. It so happens that the law already existed and it was named the "Bossi/Fini" law. The first name belongs to the leader of the "Lega Nord" party and the second one belongs to the current president of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, who is also a member of Berlusconi's party. The previous government of Italy, which was Center-left, tried to have this law proposal changed, because it was considered unconstitutional even by the European Court. Due to that, it was never fully enforced. However, the current Center-right government is trying in every possible way to fully enforce the "Bossi/Fini" law.
The fact is that the government of Berlusconi is Center-right, and therefore tends to offer a Fascist answer to their voters and supporters. This is exemplified in the fact that at the beginning of August 2009 a governmental decrete was presented in order to bring the "Bossi/Fini" law fully into effect. According to this law all foreigners who don't possess a permanent residency permit will be regarded as illegal, which in effect is criminal. After being submitted to a check by the police and if found to be illegal, the individual will be taken to a CIES (Center of Investigation and Expulsion), where they will be detained for at least thirty and at the most ninety days (until the process is judged), and after the judgment they will be deported. In case the identified person has two expulsions the judge will sentence him/her from three to eight months of prison or a fine of 15.000 Euros.
How is the law enforcement seen by immigrants?
It's simply logical that faced with such a rigorous law like this, honest people are afraid, and if they are illegal, they go into hiding. In my opinion this is a very racist law.
How is the expression "extracommunitario" used in Italy? With this I would like to touch on the subject of definition of minority groups used by the media and public opinion, like the "movimento negro" in Brazil (called "Black" in the United States), and the terms "immigrant" instead of foreigners; does that discussion happen in Italy?
The extracomunitários, even those who live legally in the country, are seen in a different way, and usually these foreigners are recognized by the color of their skin (the "Black", the "Chinese" or the "Moroccan"). There are also "Ciganos" (gypsies) — most of them from Romanian origin. These terms are used because they identify nationality with criminality. This law criminalises illegal immigrants, or "clandestines" as they are called, because of their immigration status. They are exploited? in their workplaces and cannot bring their employers to justice. They live as slaves, making what here in Italy is called "lavoro nero" (black jobs).
In Italy there is still no discussion about the applied definition. The Italians, with their long emigrant history, are afraid of foreigners and afraid of losing their jobs. On the other hand, they don't want to do the humble work or to cultivate the earth, therefore they are forced to recruit to immigrants' work.
There have been so many illegal immigrants' arrests lately, that all of the CIES in Italy are not enough to accommodate them anymore; the quantity of arrested people is far superior than the capacity to accommodate them. The prisons are also full and they don't have any more room — the situation is so critical that penitentiary guards recently organized a public demonstration, unsatisfied with there being so few to watch so many imprisoned.
The Government's current firefight is to build new prisons, but Berlusconi says that the State doesn't have enough funding for that — in the end, it will remain all as it is now. And how the Italians themselves put it: "This is a joke".
Leila, do you have anything else that you would like to tell us that was not subject of the previous questions?
I think the real situation is the one that we discussed, and that laws end up being constantly modified simply because it is impossible to apply them strictly in the real world.
Thank you very much for the interview.
Interview: Cristiane Tasinato
Translation Portuguese-English: R. C. Benedetti