Thursday, May 14, 2020

Italian minister under fire for shedding tears for migrants

Italy’s far-right opposition on Thursday lashed out at a government minister whose tearful moment while announcing a temporary amnesty for irregular migrants has gone viral on social media.

The backlash came after the government said it would give migrant workers illegally employed in agriculture, as maids, or as domestic caregivers, the right to apply for a six-month residence permit.

“For me, for where I come from, it is a fundamental issue,” Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova said late on Wednesday, breaking into tears during a news conference announcing the move.


“From today, with the choice made by this government, the invisibles will become less invisible, the brutally exploited … will be able to have a work permit,” she said.

The decision is part of a 55-billion-euro decree to prop up the Italian economy following one of world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

Opposition leader Matteo Salvini, of the far-right League party, was not impressed.

“Bellanova should be crying for the Italians before crying for clandestines,” he wrote on Twitter, where the hashtag #TeresaBellanova was trending on Thursday.

Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy, another far-right opposition party, said she was “stunned” that Bellanova wept for migrants rather than “hundreds, maybe thousands” of Italians fearing for their jobs.

In a Facebook message, the minister responded to criticism defending the right to show her emotions, and she attacked those who saw her tears as a sign of female weakness.

“The strength of women, and also of many men, is actually being able to cry: there is no such thing as ‘gender crying,’ because the only gender who knows how to cry is the human one,” she wrote.

Bellanova, 61, a former farm labourer and trade unionist, proposed the amnesty to fill labour shortages caused by the epidemic, and free undocumented migrants from the common risk of exploitation.

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