20110425 oria italy square 18
The main square in Oria, Italy. - 

Jeremy Hobson: European leaders are meeting in Rome today to talk about immigration. A new wave of it that's hitting southern Europe because of all the upheaval in North Africa.

Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports now From southern Italy.


Stephen Beard: The Church of San Domenico on the edge of a sunlit piazza in the ancient hill town of Oria. This pretty scene draws tourists from all over Europe. But in recent weeks, there's been an influx of less welcome visitors.

Young Tunisian men brawl in the street. This only serves to deepen local hostility to the migrants.

Man speaking Italian

This man says they drink, they argue, they fight, they break bottles in the street. Twenty-five thousand Tunisians have arrived in Italy since January, when the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali was ousted. When he fell, his control over illegal migration collapsed. Mohammed Munedi joined the exodus.

Mohammed Munedi: Maybe looking for nice life. Job, house. Something like this.

He's now one of hundreds of young Tunisians living in a temporary reception center outside Oria. Fauzi Bushekse is another.

Fauzi Bushekse: If I have work, I will help my family.

The fact that these young men are looking for work makes them even less popular here. There are few jobs even for the locals. Not everyone, though, is hostile to the incomers.

Volunteers hand out shoes and clothes to the migrants. Organizer Guiseppe Vitale says Italians should be the first to sympathize with people seeking their fortune abroad.

Guiseppe Vitale: We have a duty because we were immigrants in the past. We went in the past in the United States and in Germany, above all.

Vitale hopes other, wealthier parts of Italy and Europe will put out the welcome mat for the migrants. So far there's little sign of that.

In Oria, Southern Italy, I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.