Shifting Undesirability: Italian Migration, Political Activism and the Australian Authorities from the 1920s to the 1950s

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Abstract

Between the 1920s and the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of Italians emigrated to Australia, with fewer restrictions placed upon them than other continental European migrants. However, Italian migrants, especially from southern Italy, were often seen as ‘undesirable’. This was due to both their ethnicity and the view that Italians were attracted to extreme political ideologies, such as Fascism and communism. This combination led the Australian authorities to treat Italian migrants as a‘suspect community’, which meant prolonged surveillance of Italian communities, as well as efforts to prevent entry, deny citizenship to or deport certain undesirable individuals. The policing of Italians in Australia intensified in the Second World War, which resulted in many being interned, regardless of political affiliation. But at other times, the political persuasion of the Italian migrants did play apart in how they were viewed by the authorities, with communists being monitored more heavily in the 1920s and 1950s and fascists being the focus in the 1930s and 1940s. This article looks at the shifting undesirability to Italian political activists in Australia over four decades and how ethnicity alongside ideology informed their policing by the authorities across several periods of political upheaval.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalImmigrants and Minorities
Early online date16 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • border control
  • communism
  • fascism
  • Italian immigration
  • suspect communities

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