Italian migration in the 19th and 20th centuries

Europe today receives refugees from other continents (630,000 in 2021). It also receives economic migrants. It does so, however, with a degree of amnesia, forgetting the fact that over the course of history it has been Europeans who have emigrated to other continents, at many different times. Examples of this European fondness for emigration may be seen in the spread of colonialism, or the origin of such nations as the United States and Australia. Likewise at times of war, fascism or dictatorship, millions of Europeans were forced to go into exile in other countries.

As demonstrated by the case of Italy. Between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, millions of Italians (above all from rural areas) emigrated to France, Belgium, Switzerland… forced by poverty, lack of land ownership, and epidemics. Subsequently, the rise to power of fascism in 1922 prompted anti-fascist emigration fleeing the regime. After the Second World War, which left Italy in ruins, Italian migrants provided other European countries in the process of reconstruction with a mass of cheap, exploited manpower, to work in public construction projects, steelworks and mines. Between 1861 and 1985, a total of 29 million Italians emigrated to other countries.

In analysing this migratory past, various studies indicate the contempt and xenophobia with which many Italians were treated as migrants. The signs in Swiss bars in the 1960s reading "No dogs or Italians" remind us of those we see today: “Flat for rent. no immigrants”.

2-interdit aux chiens

Film:No Dogs or Italians Allowed