How racist is Italy?

An attack against discus thrower Daisy Osakue has sparked a debate about racism in Italy. The athlete suffered an eye injury when unknown assailants hurled an egg at her from a car. The UN Refugee Agency reports an increase in xenophobic attacks in the country, and the opposition says Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's refugee policy is partly to blame. Europe's press agrees.

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Aamulehti (FI) /

Breaches in moral dams

Aamulehti sees a clear connection between the Italian government's policy and the increase in racist attacks:

“In particular the leader of Lega Nord, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, has made comments that can be interpreted as discrimination of minorities. In addition to migrants he also targeted Roma. Among other things he talked of a 'mass purge' on Italy's streets. Election results can lead to the bursting of moral dams that had prevented people prone to racism and hate from openly attacking immigrants and people who look different. When parties that gain support by promoting extreme ideologies come to power, there are those who may feel entitled to vent their own anxieties at the expense of minorities.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Hate could get out of control

The EU must bring the Italian government to its senses, El Mundo urges:

“Europe has not experienced such alarming levels of racial intolerance since the consolidation of the fascist movements in the years leading up to World War II. And it is worrying to observe that this atmosphere is being fostered and incited by the government itself, whose deputy prime minister and interior minister Matteo Salvini was congratulating himself yesterday after the news that 108 Africans rescued at high sea had been returned to Libya before they could set foot on Italian soil, contravening international law. Europe cannot continue to tolerate the violent attitude of an EU member who does nothing but undermine the values on which the European project is based. Because as history tells us, hate crosses borders quicker than one would expect if responsible action isn't taken to prevent this.”

Mediapart (FR) /

No constructive solutions, just abuse

Salvini was long a member of the European Parliament and could have played a role in helping Europe adopt a common refugee policy, Mediapart rails:

“During his two mandates in Strasbourg did he ever propose European solution to the question of migration? Without wanting to trivialise Italy's difficulties or the help it has provided to refugees, one is obliged to conclude that Salvini's attitude above all highlights how a country can drift into xenophobia in the face of a hypothetical immigration problem while others, by contrast, have demonstrated humanism and solidarity and made use of the European aid they badly needed.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Interior minister just keeps provoking

Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has said it's nonsense to say that racism was behind the attack on Osakue. Mario Calabresi, editor-in-chief of La Repubblica, takes a different view, blaming Salvini for the climate of violence in Italy:

“In recent weeks racist violence has been on the rise. Fostered by hate speech, it has found fertile ground. ... For days the government remained silent, thus becoming an accomplice. Finally yesterday the prime minister and minister of justice condemned the violence. But it's the minister of the interior who is responsible for the security of our citizens - meaning all our citizens - and for ensuring that the violence doesn't escalate. Governing means working hard, not making yourself ridiculous or insulting others. ... What we don't need is provocations. What we do need is a minister of the interior. ”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The birth of the wicked

Antonio Polito, a columnist for Corriere della Sera, sees a worrying trend which he describes as "wickedness" emerging in society:

“This is not just about toppling the 'goodness' of the left which was based on the rhetoric that migration phenomena were too big to be steered anyway, which was why everyone should be taken in. ... The 'wickedness' many people boast of today (a look at Twitter can be very instructive) is more: it is the conviction that a hostile 'invasion' is under way and that there is a moral justification for defending ourselves against it. ... Can this be described as racism? No, not really. Because it is not (yet) based on the proclamation that a certain ethnic group - our group - is superior. But without doubt it creates certain forms of racial discrimination.”