- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2016

Italian politicians have a new plan to combat the threat of terrorism as refugees flood its borders: $500 “culture bonuses.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that over 150,000 refugees arrived in Italy by sea in 2015 and another 115,000 thus far in 2016. The Italian government says it will counter the cultural changes that new arrivals bring by offering more than a half-million 18-year-olds vouchers for movies, concerts and trips to museums.

Tommaso Nannicini, the official in charge of the program, said this week that teenagers will be sent “a message” that culture is “crucial,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday. The program will run through 2017.

“[Islamic radicals] imagine terror, we answer with culture. They destroy statues, we love art. They destroy books, we are the country of libraries,” Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said last year when the policy was announced, the newspaper reported.

Roughly 20 percent of Italy’s new immigrants come from Nigeria, with others flowing in from places such as Sudan, Somalia and Mali. Officials expect to spend $300 million on the program depending on the numbers of eligible citizens who apply. The bonuses are technically available to all 18-year-old European Union citizens living in Italy.

“It is hard to say what is the best approach. But what we can say is what is the wrong one: a spying system that stigmatizes and excludes people,” Maina Kiai, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said during a recent forum on countering extremism, The Post reported.

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