One could think that a tumbling economy combined with a few thousand people being laid off would discourage immigration, but this is not so.

Contrary to some forecasts, many poor immigrants are pushing to escape the dire poverty back home and leaving their homeland in exposing themselves to life threatening situations in search of greener pastures.

Unfortunately arriving and settling in a new homeland is coupled with many obstacles and a not so smooth road. Once an immigrant has arrived, though, the tanking economy is playing an increasingly important role in their fortunes - not just because it's harder to find a job, but also because locals are increasingly hostile to their presence.

Many immigrants are greeted with a cold shoulder by locals; Southern Europe, South Africa and Middle America are a growing number of examples of both governments and individuals venting their frustrations on foreigners.

Take Italy. We have to be nasty with illegal immigrants, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni declared this week, Time Magazine reported. Italy's unemployment rate is expected to rise to 8.2% in 2009, up from 6.7% last year. The country, which boasts a 4,500 km-long coastline, is also on the front line of African immigration into Europe. Some 36,000 immigrants arrived on Italian shores in 2008, up from 22,000 the previous year, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.

Midway between Sicily and North Africa, the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa has long been a prime landing spot for illegal immigrants. Last month, protests erupted over plans to build a second detention center on the island, as locals fear that an already damaged beach tourism industry will be further hit.

Hostility toward immigrants however extends far beyond the points of entry. On February 2, an Indian immigrant was beaten and set on fire by local youths in Nettuno, near Rome. Last month, two unidentified men in Athens threw acid on the face of a Bulgarian migrant worker. Xenophobia and competition for scarce jobs was blamed for the rampages last summer in South Africa that killed scores of immigrants from Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The economic downturn is one of the main reasons for the attacks causing greater competition for jobs and rising frustration among locals but also racism can be attributed as a cause. Many locals have protested the use of foreign workers.

Despite the gloomy state of the economy, immigration levels are unlikely to decrease as scores of people search for new homes across the globe. The world's basic stock of 200 million migrants hasn't really changed, and isn't likely to change, says Jemini Pandya of the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, citing the estimate for the total number of people living in countries other than their place of birth, Time Magazine reported.

Many of the poor see a life in Europe or U.S. as much greater than the poverty, war or persecutions back home.