Every time I land at London Stansted or Luton Airports it doesn't seem to me that I am in UK. Every time I have the impression of being still in Italy.
Queueing at the UK border, you are welcomed by writings only in Italian which explain that, although the Italian ID cards are valid documents, they may require additional time to be controlled by the border police and it would be better to use your passport. What a pity that the Italian ID card is free and meant to be enough for your right of free movement within Europe while you have to pay 100 euro per year otherwise your passport is not valid according to the Italian law.
When the visibly disappointed police officer gives you back your beloved Italian ID card, you go buying a bus ticket to reach London city centre and you come across a bus company which employ only Italians. So, at the tickets' desk two Italian boys, even younger than me, are complaining about their boss (with a lot of polite gestures, of course) and feel so awkward when my voice asks them for a ticket in Italian.
But it is not finished. The staff in charge of boarding the bus is all made in Italy, I guess only the driver is British (maybe because Italians are scared of driving on the other side of the street or because British people don't trust Italians' driving skills. If you want to laugh a bit watch this video, it proves that Italians are very reliable drivers).The real adventure, anyway, is on the bus itself. When you are surrounded by young Italians dreamers, who talk all the time about the lack of job opportunities in Italy, their fears and their dreams of finding a job in London. The adventure for them is just at the beginning, while it has already become true for the Spanish people who filled a Berlin-London flight this January against my expectations. They moved to UK few years ago, in search of job. Now they are established, they work and study in London and spend the holidays in others European capitals.
The story of the Italian immigration in UK is an old one, according to some it even started during the Roman empire, when a lot of Italian people where sent to the then called Britannia to settle up villages. Our immigration continued during the centuries, mainly related to arts and commerce. But this wave of immigration is different, as pointed out in this The Economist’s article. I can guarantee it is true, as I experienced what it tells this summer on my own skin.
The word PIGS, used by The Sun in its famous headline “PIGS here”, stands for Portuguese, Italians, Greek and Spanish. But these are only some of the nationalities of the new immigrants. All in search of job opportunities which lack in their home countries. All in search of a better future and of a place where to spend their degrees, escaping from Southern Europe suffering economies. While Italy has to cope with the so called “escape of brains” from its territory, UK has to handle a massive wave of immigration. Only the Italian one is grown of 52% in 2013 and the number of the National Insurance number released to Italian people has gone from 25,800 in 2012 to 39,400 in 2013 (see chart in The Economist’s article).
The Italian Consulate of London has launched a project called Primo approdo (in English first landing) which seeks to help Italian youngsters moving to UK with CV writing, English courses and with information about labour law and medical assistance in UK, trying to prevent them being cozened. The project is entitled to Joele Leotta, a young Italian killed in Kent the last autumn. His murder at first appeared to be related to the fact that he was working in UK, stealing job to others people.
Given this frame, I wonder which is the role of journalism in relation to immigration. In the Italian press UK is portrayed as one of the most powerful European countries, just slightly affected by the crisis. The Italians who come here don't have a clear idea of what they will have to face. Of how difficult is the job market here. For them UK is still the promised land of 15-10 years ago, when it was easy to find a job in London. Among my family’s stories there is the one of my cousin, who found a job as a waitress in few days in London. I did it as well, this summer, in just three days. But I was very very lucky: my then co-workers (all from Italy and Spain) told me that it had taken them at least four months to get the same job.
The attitude of the Italian press is exactly the same for what concerns Germany: it is described as an even more powerful country, where everything works, from sanity to public transports. When the German press was complaining about the slow new Government coalition’s building-process, the Italian media were suggesting of taking example from German politics and its ability to cope with this kind of situation.
Of course the services and the economics of UK and Germany are different and much more better than Italy’s ones, but, still, if you live in Berlin for couple of months you will realize even it is not paradise and that is very difficult to find a job there. But, for the Italian press, it doesn't really matter. It keeps on portraying UK and Germany as paradise, suggesting to migrate to one of those countries to desperate youngsters in search of job.
Even in the era of Europe, journalism keeps on covering topics also (or mainly) from a national point of view. It is in its own nature to do so. But it is also its duty to give a true picture of what is going on. In describing other countries the Italian media fail to fulfill this ideal goal.
There are some projects that try to report on Europe from an European prospective.
But even they sometimes fail their aim of creating a bridge between different countries and in communicating Europe to Europe.
And this is why understanding what is the situation in another country only from your national media can be difficult. Sometimes impossible. But, if I look at my friends and people I know, the majority of the Italians still read only the Italian press before taking-off to London.
*For the Italian speakers I would suggest this article posted by La Repubblica, which well makes the point on this new wave of Italian immigration to London.