January 11, 2010

African Immigrants Leave Italian Town After Attacks

Racism is still alive and well in many parts of the world. This article from CNN makes the point and it amazes me that non-blacks faced with this type of behaviour from people amongst them just go along with it...wow!




(CNN) -- The message blaring out of the speakers on the van was stark: "Any black person who is hiding in Rosarno should get out. If we catch you, we will kill you."

Abdul Rashid Muhammad Mahmoud Iddris got out.

He's one of hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of African migrants taken by bus out of the Italian town over the weekend after violent demonstrations shook southern Italy.

The unrest was among the worst of its kind in recent Italian history, said a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.

"We have not witnessed such protests in a long time," said Flavio Di Giacomo. "There were several thousand, but I don't know exactly how many people were involved."

It was the unprovoked shooting of an African migrant that sparked two days of protests, Iddris told CNN by telephone from Italy.

Iddris lived with other migrants in an abandoned factory outside Rosarno, he said.

On Thursday, a BMW pulled up outside the factory, a man got out, shot one of the Africans living there, and drove off.

A passing policeman told Iddris and his friends it was not his job to help the wounded man, so they called the Red Cross to take the man to a hospital for treatment, Iddris said. Press reports said the man was shot with a pellet gun.

Iddris and his friends decided to march to Rosarno's town hall to protest.

"About 2,000 people came -- all of us," he said. "It started about 6 or 7 in the evening, a few hours after he was shot."

But police forced the demonstrators to turn back, threatening them with tear gas, Iddris said. Six or seven people were arrested, he said.

The next morning, Friday, they tried again, playing drums as they tried to march from the factory to Rosarno's town hall, he said.

That's when they heard the warning.

"People took a van, an information van with speakers, saying any black person who is hiding in Rosarno should get out, if they catch anyone they will kill him," Iddris said.

Iddris -- who is originally from Sudan and has been in Italy for about 18 months, first as an asylum seeker and then without legal documentation, and who picks oranges in season -- said police arrested another 10 to 20 people at Friday's demonstration.

Italian press reports said the demonstrators had burned cars.

Later on Friday, Iddris said, police arranged for buses to move the Africans away from Rosarno to another village.

But the new location was no safer, he said. Police had to keep locals and migrants physically separated Saturday.

"They said they would take us to another place. They said it's dangerous now for blacks to stay there," he said.

Hundreds of people were driven to Bari and Naples, Iddris said. He was on one of six buses, each with 45 to 50 people, taken to Bari.

"Right now we don't know what is next," he said Monday.

Police in the Calabria region, where Rosarno is located, were not immediately available for comment.

But Pope Benedict XVI spoke out against the violence in his weekly address on Sunday.

"An immigrant is a human being, different by background, culture and tradition, but a person to be respected," he said.

"Violence must never be a way to resolve difficulties," he said, urging people "to look at the face of the other and discover that he, too, has a soul, a story and a life. He is a person and God loves him just as He loves me."

Di Giacomo, the International Organization for Migration spokesman, said Italy has many migrants, often from Africa, living in conditions bordering on slavery.

The migrants who demonstrated last week "were exploited. They were just paid 20 euros (about $29) per day and they lived in slums, the same as slavery conditions. A few months ago in (the southern Italian region of) Campagna we discovered a similar situation. It's unfortunately a reality in many places, especially in southern Italy."

Italy is one of the top European destinations for migrants, the migration organization's figures show. More than 3.6 million legal migrants live in the country -- 6.2 percent of the total population -- and Italy has the European Union's highest annual growth rate of migrants, along with Spain.

It's hard to know exactly how many illegal immigrants there are in the country, Di Giacomo said.

"It is not controlled in any way. They change the area where they work because of the season of the year -- oranges in the winter, tomatoes in the summer," he said. "With economic migrants, many of them arrive with tourist visas and overstay seeking work. They can arrive in so many ways," including paying traffickers thousands of dollars to smuggle them into the country.

Not all the workers involved in the demonstrations were undocumented, he said -- but the line between legal and illegal can be porous.

"Some have lost their jobs, and in Italy if you lose your job you have six months to find work or you become illegal," he said.

Italian media has speculated that the Mafia was behind the shooting that triggered the violence.

But Di Giacomo said it was not important whether they were or not.

"We don't know if the Mafia is involved, but the point is not really the Mafia," he said. "the point is that the conditions for these migrants are so inhuman that they can lead to some violent reactions."


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3 comments:

savvybrown said...

Thank you for posting this! It's the first I've heard about it. Things are not easy for people of African descent in other countries. Remember what happened in France a few years ago?

Nu Kynk said...

@savvybrown

Yes I do remember about France, its crazy!

Sarah Brooke said...

thanks for posting this!!! I learn something new everyday...