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Chinese immigrants desert Italy as economy flounders

posted 10 Jan 2013, 05:14 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 10 Jan 2013, 05:15 ]

An unhealthy Italian economy is encouraging many Chinese immigrants to return home or leave the country for North America where they believe business enterprises have more hope of success.

 ROMEITALY (JANUARY 9, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Piazza Vittorio in central Rome has long been the Chinese quarter of the Italian capital. But now members of the local Chinese immigrant population say the area is changing with many businesses closing down. Many people are making the decision to return to a healthier economic climate in China or seek new countries for their enterprises.

With higher taxes, a stronger clampdown on tax evasion and a sluggish economy many small to medium sized businesses owned by Chinese immigrants are simply shutting up shop.

Sonia Zho, a Chinese restaurant owner in Piazza Vittorio has lived in Rome for 21-years.

"Before Piazza Vittorio was like Chinatown, it really was like Chinatown, full of Chinese people, full of shops."

"But now many are closing businesses, now near me many shops are closed, closed, closed, or empty or have turned into other types of shops which are not Chinese anymore" Zho said.

At a local travel agency jointly owned by an Italian and Chinese couple, they say the sale of one-way tickets back to China has increased. But they also point out that the economic crisis has had a knock on affect with Italian businessmen reducing their travel to China by about thirty percent.

"We have definitely seen a reduction of movement of Chinese clients, particularly Chinese businessmen, with big or small enterprises in Italy" said travel agency co-owner Giuseppe Lombardo.

"But that most notable is the movement of Italians, the movement of Italians going toChina has dropped by thirty percent" he said.

"Many Chinese people are now booking tickets just one way because they prefer closing their businesses here and returning to China again or to go to other places" Lombardo said.

North America and Canada seem to be at the top of places list for people to head for, with little traffic moving between other European countries.

Italy's elderly population is increasing and has a low birth rate, without immigrants the country has little hope of pulling itself out of a recession.

But for Italy's Chinese immigrants who have been born in the country, they say the decision to leave the country is very different. Twenty-year-old bar man Enrico Xu was born in Rome and would not dream of leaving. He says many of those immigrants who have left had not been here long enough to have any strong family ties to the country.

"It depends if you have been here a long time or not whether you want to stay or go. For me, I was born here, it's different, it depends on what your roots are like in this country" he said as he served a traditional espresso coffee in the bar.

Statistics are vague on the numbers of immigrants in Italy, as many people do not cancel their residency when they leave the country. But what is clear is that it is not just the Chinese community who appear to be leaving many other nationality groupings are also deciding that maybe Italy will not be the best place to become rich.