Italy: Institutional racism
Cristina Artoni - 31/10/2008
For several days, coins were found in front of the bar “Shining” on Via Zuretti in Milan. Just enough to pay for the packet of biscuits that Abba allegedly stole, according to the accusations of those who took his life away.
Not far from the “via Gluck” sung by famous artist Celentano, a few hundred metres from the Central Station, via Zuretti is one of the many anonymous streets of Milan. It’s located in a former council house neighbourhood, where the unstylish buildings born in the rush of the fifties are now worth the cost of the city’s prohibitive standards.
From now on however, the name of via Zuretti will be linked to the murder of Abdul Salam Guibre, a.k.a.Abba, a 19 year old Italian whose parents come from Burkina Faso. They struck him there on last 14 September, on a Saturday night. The bar owners where Abba had come in with some friends shortly before, ran after him, insulted him and beat him with a club, causing his death.
This senseless death has brought to light today’s prevalent racism in Italy.
In the last ten years, politics started expressing their contempt for “foreigners” in an increasingly aggressive manner.
Political speeches then translated into new immigration laws, based on the discrimination and detention of migrants.
Actions then followed the declarations. Berlusconi’s new government triggered a persecution against the Rom population, present on the territory since decades.
The evictions, the police raids in the camps, the fires set on the shacks, have definitively broken the dams of civil co-existence between “Italians” and “the others”.
These political actions have cleared the way for an unrestrained expression of racism throughout the population. The events of the last months represent our very own war bulletin. An open conflict against everything foreign to us is taking place, even in cases where people grew up within our boundaries.
Some deny this situation, others minimize it, some counterattack. The government is united in rejecting the accusations of racism addressed to them.
The only slightly discordant voice is that of Gianfranco Fini, President of the Chamber of Deputies: “Denying that there is a danger of xenophobia would be wrong”, he asserted.
Fini appealed on the role of politics in contrasting any possibility of racism that, he claimed, sprouts from diffidence, ignorance and fear towards the other, although it is often ‘motivated’, and invited to ‘be on the watch’. That is why, Fini concludes, ‘we need a clear policy on immigration’.
However, measures on migratory flows already exist and in fact are named after the selfsame President of the Chamber of Deputies and the leader-founder of the Lega Nord (North League). The Bossi-Fini law, a Consolidated Law on immigration, is one of the most restrictive regulations at European level, insomuch as to become a model to reproduce. Further to prosecuting illegal aliens, the law includes measures bordering on the absurd that make life tough in Italy. One example for all: to access Italy legally you must already have a job in this country. The foreign worker must be requested in name by the employer to the Italian Embassy of the country of origin. This measure is based on a double hypocrisy: 1) you cannot request a worker you don’t know 2) it implies that the worker came to Italy illegally, did clandestine work, and once he gained the trust of the employer he went back to his home country to start a procedure of repatriation that can last a long time.
Furthermore, in the last months the provisions have grown stricter. A decree called “Urgent provisions on public safety” has introduced regulations that limit the possibility of family reunification, tighten up the procedures for immigrants forced to enter irregularly, by extending the administrative detention to 18 months before the extradition, aggravate the procedure for asylum seekers and further limit the freedom of circulation by reducing this right also to EU citizens.
The decree also envisages that whereas a foreign citizen without a residence permit should commit a crime while living illegally in Italy, the punishment for that crime will be increased up to a third. Furthermore, whoever is sentenced definitively to a punishment of more than two years, whether, Eu or non-Eu citizen, will be expelled or deported, whereas before a sentence of at least ten years was requested for expulsion. Whoever remains in Italy despite the expulsion or deportation order pronounced by the judge, will be punished with imprisonment ranging from one to four years.
This legislative context foments discrimination in Italy. When we confronted ourselves with the various forms of radicalisation with Babelmed’s editorial staff, we thought that reporting the surreal rules imposed by the Bossi-Fini law, would have shown the other side of the medal. We wanted to narrate the story of Barbara, a 26 years old from Argentina, arrived in Milan to study and irregular since one year as she doesn’t have a fixed job.
Barbara was forced to live on the run, always afraid of controls. She was planning to marry with a friend to get the documents.
But the drift was yet to come, as for the claim of the Somali woman “humiliated, mistreated and offended, kept naked for hours in the airport of Ciampino” by a group of policemen; the bashing by plain-clothes police officers of Emmanuel in Parma; the beating up in the province of Varese of an adolescent of Moroccan origins by girls of her same age; the massacre of six immigrants in Castel Volturno requested by the Camorra and the death of Abba, one morning at dawn, in Milan.
Translated from Italian by Nada Ghorayeb
"Preventing Violent Radicalisation 2007"