Despite ostensibly distinguishing between refugees who are actually fleeing war and other allegedly less deserving categories of migrant, the League has not shown much sympathy in the case of the...
Despite ostensibly distinguishing between refugees who are actually fleeing war and other allegedly less deserving categories of migrant, the League has not shown much sympathy in the case of the Afghan crisis – with Salvini reiterating that Italy cannot serve as a giant refugee camp on behalf of Europe and the world or maintain an open-door policy for ‘potential terrorists’.
The approach to Afghan refugees promoted by the Brothers of Italy party – which happens to be the successor to Benito Mussolini’s outlawed Fascist Party and yet is the leading component of Italy’s so-called ‘centre-right’ coalition – is meanwhile summed up by the La Repubblica newspaper as follows: “No refugees in Italy… but in any other country yes.”
Not that migrants who actually make it to Italy always have much to write home about. In addition to being inundated with racist vitriol, they are often detained in deplorable conditions that are inconducive to recuperating physically or mentally from having just risked their lives on hazardous and violence-ridden trajectories necessitated by the unilateral sanctity of European borders.
There are, of course, plenty of more humane Italian voices calling for a hospitable reception of refugees. But thanks in part to calculated exploitation of the migration issue, Italy’s right-wing sociopaths are experiencing a renaissance – and a recent survey by the online paper Affaritaliani.it reported that nearly half of Italians opposed accepting refugees from Afghanistan.
To be sure, one function of fascistic fear-mongering is to distract public attention from domestic malaise and mis-governance by channeling The Blame For All Problems onto immigrants and other ‘Others’.
Case in point: recurring prime minister Berlusconi has propagated the claim that “all these migrants live off trickery and crime”. This same Berlusconi has himself been indicted various times for corruption – while ‘trickery’ would also seem to be a pretty good description of a situation in which a billionaire politician presides over a media empire in the country where he is politically active.
In 2018, United Nations human rights experts warned that a “public discourse unashamedly embracing racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner rhetoric” had produced a “climate of intolerance” that was unquestionably linked to the “escalation in Italy in hate incidents against groups and individuals, including children, based on their actual or perceived ethnicity, skin colour, race and/or immigration status”.
One presumable case in point: the 13-month-old Roma girl who was shot from a balcony by a man with an air rifle. This was in July 2018 – coincidentally on the heels of one of Salvini’s anti-Roma campaigns.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, I myself used to spend a part of every summer in the region of Puglia in southern Italy, where I was able to observe the effects of the political-mediatic war on refugees and migrants.
Each year, local residents would update me on the rumoured transgressions of Italy’s unwanted guests, who in addition to being thieves, rapists, and terrorists, were also said to be milking the Italian state for every last euro – to be spent on luxury accommodations, the latest mobile phone models.
Excerpted: ‘Afghans are the next victims of Italy’s war on refugees’