Italian good people
Federica Araco - 18/05/2010
Amadou is 29 years old and has a sweet smile. He arrived in Rome from Rosarno, the Calabrese hamlet where he worked from dawn to dusk gathering citrus fruit for months without being paid. He used to sleep in an abandoned factory turned into a dormitory. After the clashes among immigrants and Italians started by the attack of two non-EU persons with shoot-outs, whacks and a result of 65 wounded persons, they were hundreds to be transferred to centres in Calabria and Puglia. Amadou ended up in Rome. He now lives at the centre in Caselnuovo di Porto, 30 kilometres away from the city. He doesn’t know whether he can stay in Italy or if they will send him back home at the Ivory Coast. He has been waiting for an answer to his application for asylum for nine months. He lives between shadow and silence.
The incidents of Rosarno have left deep wounds and many unanswered questions. They have confirmed that in the South, immigrants are often exploited by criminal organizations to work in fields, sell counterfeit merchandise and deal drugs. Those who end up in this circle find it very difficult to come out of it: they prefer to remain silent rather than denounce the abuse of power they suffer and risk expulsion.
The clans requisite money and identity documents and at the end of the season they get rid of the employed manual laborers in any way. In Rosarno there are only 300 immigrants left out of 2000(1).
There are 4.2 million immigrants in Italy(2). According to the Dossier migrantes 2009 published by Caritas, a million of them are irregular. In the past decade, with the increasing fluxes, the policies implemented by the State have worsened considerably. Among the most restrictive on a European level, the 2002 Bossi-Fini law planned the expulsion of illegal immigrants after their identification in Centers of Temporary Stay (centri di permanenza temporanea - Cpt). The decree bound the residence permit to work and admitted the rejection of immigrants in extraterritorial waters on the basis of bilateral agreements with neighbouring countries.
In 2003, the Berlusconi Government launched secret negotiations with Libya sending patrol boats overseas, off-road vehicles, blankets, mattresses and money for repatriation flights.
According to Libyan authorities, 95 370 persons were arrested between 2005 and 2006. Millions of Euros have been allocated to assist Libya in the struggle against illegal immigration. In exchange, ENI, the major Italian petrol company that operates in the country(3) has obtained the extension of the concession of oil (till 2042) and gas (till 2047) deposits. In the next ten years, ENI and NOC, its Libyan partner will invest 28 billion dollars in energy projects.
The Italo-Libyan agreement for the struggle of illegal immigration and the joint patrol of the Sicilian channel dates back to March 2009. Since then, violating the Geneva Convention, Italy has rejected over 1400 migrants at sea. Most of them are refugees or asylum seekers escaping famine and wars: Eritreans, Somalis, Nigerians and Sudanese. In Libya, where political asylum laws do not exist and where Human rights are not guaranteed, there are about twenty immigrant detention centres. Three of them, including the one of Kufra – known for the inhuman treatment of detainees – have been financed by Italy. The overcrowded centres have awful sanitary and hygienic conditions and are often a theatre of abuses and violence. Thousands of people including loads of women spend years without contacts with the outside world and with no legal support. Migrants are arrested and transferred from one prison to another and then sold to intermediates by the police in order to be arrested again. The illegal immigrant business is making everyone rich in a context of corruption and violence with no limits. Some of them stay in Libya for three or four years before reaching the Italian coasts. However, those who survive the crossing risk returning back.
In spite of the criticism of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International, the rejection of the first immigrants’ pontoon has been defined by Roberto Maroni, current Minister of the Interior, as “a historical turning point for Italy”. There is no doubt that we are facing here a shameful xenophobic drift that intends to turn immigrants into the scapegoats of all the Country’s evils.
A few years ago, La Padania , a daily newspaper of the Lega Nord party(4) (Northern League) diffused in the North-East, wrote: “When you will liberate us from the Negros, whores, criminals, non EU burglars, dark skinned rapists and gypsies that are infecting our homes, our lives, our minds? Chuck them out, these cursed!”
This aggressive rhetoric to defend national borders from the “invasion” of foreigners and the struggle against the “africanisation” of cities is exploited by media and the government as a political priority that cannot be renounced. And yet, a research that was carried out in 2008 by the Ministry of the Interior shows that the disembark have decreased, contrary to the fluxes coming from Eastern Europe and Asia(5).
The incidents of violence and intolerance against immigrants or entire communities are in constant increase in the whole Country. The kindergarten of the city of Goito, a little Northern League enclave in the province of Mantova, allows the access to school only to children whose family accepts “the Christian way of life”. In Milan, immigrants are identified on public transport and are transported in bullet-proof buses for passport examination. In Foggia there are separate lanes for “Italians” and “immigrants” on a bus line that crosses the city.
The policies implemented by local administrations reflect the climate of tension and intolerance promoted by the Government. The “Pacchetto sicurezza” [Security Package] (2009) has changed clandestineness into a crime with a fine amounting up to ten thousand Euros. In the Country of political impunity, law gives irregular immigrants that stay after their expulsion mandate, a punishment of six months to four years of imprisonment. The residence permit is now required for all civil status acts, even to transfer money abroad. Italian citizens are encouraged to report illegal immigrants. Legal immigrants face more and more complex and costly procedures to obtain or renew their residence permit.
The message is clear: foreigners are not welcome here.
Yet, immigrants contribute to 10% of the gross domestic product and perform tasks that no Italian would be willing to undertake. According to the Ethnoland Foundation, the number of enterprises managed by foreigners is constantly increasing, circa 20 thousand per year: 3% of Italian businesses. Immigrants are also determinating for the demographic growth of the Country which has been close to zero for years: the data diffused by the State reveal an increase of 5.7 per thousand in 2009.
“In Italy we talk of immigration only as a problem of public order but immigration is also related to culture”, reminds us the Algerian writer Amara Lakhous. A Country that owes its own extraordinary social, cultural and linguistic richness to the thousand-year encounter between civilizations should have no doubt about it. “This is what political entrepreneurs hope for from xenophobia”, explains the anthropologist Annamaria Riviera, immigration specialist, “it is a limited immigration consisting of a frightened, docile, silent workforce, a passive object of discretionary powers, incapable of claiming rights, hidden in the folds of the informal labour market. It is not from Islam that they want to liberate themselves but from the possibility of them becoming citizens…”(6)
And what about the Italians?
A survey that was carried out in January 2010 by Eurispes relates that the majority approve the political control and the repression implemented by the Government. The most common views on immigrants are that they increase criminality (64.7%) and contribute to the spread of disease (35,6%). 29.9% of the respondents fear the risk of losing their cultural identity while 48% beleive that illegal employment contributes to the economic crisis.
The cultural and moral degradation which we have been experiencing for years and the progressive barbarism of the political class are worrying. They remind the darkest pages of the recent Italian history
Translated into English by Elizabeth Grech
- It is the second time that in Italy, a group of irregular immigrants rebel against mafia exploitation. In 2008 Castel Volturno, a hamlet in the Campania region, has been the scene of violent clashes following the killing of six African men by a Camorra leader for a drug affair.
- Fonte: Istat, data of the 1st of January 2010 www.istat.it.
- ENI settled in Libya more than forty years ago. It is the only foreign company that remained in the Country during the embargo. It extracts 550 thousand barils of petrol daily. In 2007, it allocated 800 million dollars for the following 8 years in order to introduce other fields in the hinterland into production, to expand the Mellitah pipeline’s transport capacity – and to build a new implant of 5 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas per year.
- During that year, only 15% of immigrants had arrived in Italy crossing the Mediterranean. However, shipwrecks have increased: dilapidated and overloaded boats are now guided directly by migrants and crossings take place in very bad meteorologiccal conditions. Cfr. P. Monzini, Fortress Europe: the change of the routes of despair , in Limes 3/2009 "Our Sea and that of others ".
- Annamaria Rivera, Il velo del pregiudizio. La xenofobia e il fantasma dell’islam , in fascicolo 10, 2001 “La società degli individui”.
“Like a Man on Earth”, by A. Segre, D.Yimer and R. Biadene (Italy, 2009)
“Mamadou va a morire. La strage dei clandestini nel Mediterraneo” (Mamadou goes to die. The havoc of illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean), G. Del Grande, Infinito edizioni, 2007