Human Rights Watch released a report on the state of racism and xenophobia in Italy yesterday. The results are not cheerful reading.
I wrote about this two years ago for the American, and it’s not heartening to see that things have been in a continued downward spiral.
As usual, the Italian press reacts with typical oversimplification and indignation: “Human Rights Watch says Italy is racist,” say Liquida. The timing of the report is important, as the island of Lampedusa is receiving an ever-greater influx of refugees from the ongoing war in Libya. The Italian press stokes unfounded fears of military retaliation (nicely debunked here) while interior minister Roberto Maroni asks the EU for €100m ($138m) and stokes fear by quoting wildly-vacillating numbers of immigrants in Libya (presumably destined for Italy’s shores).
The goings-on on the other side of the Mediterranean have got normally isolated Italians in an ever-more pessimistic tizzy, abated, in some part, by the festivities last week, which I found were a nice distraction from an otherwise parlous state of affairs – although every news outlet out there took pains to explain to unfamiliar readers that Berlusconi’s hold on power is thanks to the anti-immigrant or xenophobic Northern League.
What remains to be seen is whether the government will cynically rush through more anti-immigrant measures based in the culture of fear stoked by the media. If so, then the question remains to the aging elites in Rome who push for such legislation in a country with one of the world’s lowest birth rates that posted a 0.1% growth rate at the close of last quarter: who will do the work in the Italy of the future?