Sunday, 19 June 2011

Stop Racism and Xenophobia in Italy

The Italian government has approved an emergency decree which foresees the immediate expulsion of all illegal immigrants, and at the same time has extended the detention period in the CIEs* to 18 months.

According to hundreds of witness accounts (many of which have been published in the national newspapers) these Centres of Identification and Expulsion are authentic concentration camps. The decree also allows for the forced expulsion of EU citizens. We are talking about a manhunt that is taking place throughout Italy, where the police are rounding up Roma citizens and migrants, identifying them, and charging them with every kind of offence (from begging to insulting a public official, from illegal occupation of public land to resisting police officers).

The magistrates, therefore, basing their sentences on convictions that are often served through “penal decrees” (trials without the right to a defence) or by summary judgement (an immediate trial that does not allow those accused to defend themselves properly, forcing them to negotiate a reduced prison sentence even when innocent) can order expulsions for reasons of "social dangerousness". 18 months in a CIE is harsh punishment, because after a few weeks in detention most of the migrants carry out acts of self-harm and many even contemplate suicide (often seeing their plan through). Poor immigrant families often experience the further tragedy of seeing their children taken away from them, with no opportunity to protest. The children are taken into care, and some are later adopted by Italian families.

The European Union must avoid falling prey to the same indifference that allowed the Holocaust and other persecutions in modern history to take place. We are asking the EU authorities to organize a committee of inquiry to inspect the conditions of persecution that migrants and refugees are living in in Italian cities. The committee should observe the waste of European funds allocated to immigration; the spread of intolerant ideologies promoted by politicians and the media; and the failure to implement programme to combat racism, neo-Nazism, antiziganism,** anti-Semitism and racial ideologies. The new agreements that the Italian Minister of the Interior (a top man in a party that combats foreigners and immigrants without posing ethical limits) is about to sign with Libya, will result in more pushing back of refugees, or the blocking of groups of refugees fleeing from persecution. This is today’s Italy, where the Italian people are becoming accustomed to the serious discrimination taking place against the Roma, poor Africans and migrants, and the many episodes of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia.

* Centres for Identification and Expulsion
** Hostility, prejudice or racism directed at the Romani people.


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