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Anti-immigrants rhetoric divides Italian coastal town of Monfalcone

Euronews
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Far-right Lega mayor of Monfalcone, Anna Maria Cisint, who is running in the European elections, has again caused a stir with her campaign and policies aimed at residents of foreign backgrounds, including Muslims.

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The Italian town of Monfalcone is dealing with a spike in friction — and media attention — caused by the political positions of the city's far-right Lega party mayor regarding a high number of legal residents of foreign background.

Right before the European vote scheduled for 8 and 9 June in Italy, the debate reached its peak in the northern municipality with just over 30,000 inhabitants.

Monfalcone, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, has become one of Italy's municipalities with the greatest concentration of foreigner-born residents, comprising around a third of the population.

More than 5,000 are of Bangladeshi background, followed by Romania and the former Yugoslavia. Two out of three newborns in Monfalcone are the children of immigrants, most of whom are fully integrated into the community and can easily find work thanks to the headquarters of Fincantieri, the Italian public company specialising in shipyards and its subcontractors.

Fincatieri's rising demand for a steady workforce was the main driving force behind many — especially people from Bangladesh — deciding to move to Monfalcone. In turn, the northern town, just kilometres away from Slovenia, has become one of the key financial centres in the region.

Those not employed by the Italian giant have started their own businesses, with many shops and bars owned by foreign-born residents.

However, according to the residents, troubles appeared on the horizon back in 2016, when Anna Maria Cisint was first elected mayor.

Lega mayor bans burkini

Cisint, who is running in the European elections, has gone on to cause an ongoing clash with the Bangladeshi community, which is nominally of Muslim faith.

She has accused Fincatieri of "importing bad labour", although the company refuted her statements, explaining that it could not satisfy its needs just by hiring local Italian workers.

In the summer of 2023, the mayor's open letter to the local Muslim community made the news after she wrote that the practice of going to the beach and swimming wearing clothing other than swimsuits should stop, effectively introducing a ban on the burkini.

Cisint has also pushed for further bans on cricket, observing the Muslim religious month of Ramadan and Arabic lessons, claiming that all foreign-born residents should integrate completely, all consistent with the anti-Islam rhetoric of the more radical parts of her party.

Bangladeshi people do not speak Arabic but might learn it for religious reasons.

Under Cisint, the city council has also adopted controversial measures against the Muslim community, including a ban on Friday prayers in two Islamic cultural centres in November of last year, attracting the attention of domestic outlets describing it as the "Italian town where Muslims have no place to pray".

Cisint has defended the decision, citing a potential spike in Islamic extremism. The ban has since been repealed.

In the run-up to the June elections, Cisint has made the headlines once more. Under the slogan "It's enough, also in Europe", a shout-out to the anti-immigration of Lega of Matteo Salvini, Cisint is hoping to take her policies to Brussels.

For the residents of Monfalcone, however, the renewed spike in polarising rhetoric has brought back the tensions to the fore once again.

Watch the full report in the player above to find out more.

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