Italy’s Migrant Boot Camp | People and Power

Mass migration from Africa and the Middle East into southern Europe through Italy has become one of the most sensitive political issues in that country in recent times.

The arrival of around 700,000 people since 2014 – whether refugees from war and persecution or those in search of better economic opportunities – has inspired both xenophobia and a more open-minded, if heated, debate about how best to handle their integration.

One northern Italian city has adopted a radical solution to both problems – an integration “boot camp” that aims, through military-style discipline and hard work, to make migrants more acceptable to the local population.

Residents of the institution in Bergamo are required to wear uniforms, stand to attention by their beds for inspection, take mandatory classes in Italian language and culture, and do “voluntary” work around the area.

It is a controversial approach to a complex issue. Over the past few years, Italy has seen a surge in populist sentiment, spearheaded by the right-wing League party and its confrontational leader Matteo Salvini, who is often accused of racism due to his stance on “out-of-control” illegal immigration.

But the camp’s director, Christophe Sanchez – who, perhaps surprisingly, is a supporter of Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party – believes that assimilating and not criminalising migrants is just a matter of common sense.

“If a man speaks Italian, has a permanent job, is financially independent, it would be crazy to take this person and throw them into illegality. This place works,” he says.

This film goes behind the scenes at the Bergamo boot camp to find out whether its martial methods might be an effective antidote to Italy’s disturbing anti-migrant sentiment.

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In This Story: Italy

Italy is a republic in central Europe which forms a peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea as well as bordering France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. The islands of Sardinia and Sicily form part of the main territory of Italy. Italy is part of the Eurozone, having entered the common currency on 1st January 1999.

The capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican as well as landmark art and ancient ruins. Other major cities include Florence, with Renaissance masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s “David” and Brunelleschi’s Duomo; Venice, the city of canals; and Milan, Italy’s fashion capital.

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