The hostility which struck the small town of Rosarno, in Calabria region of southern Italy began on Thursday when two African migrants where shot by the locals.
The following Friday was going to witness a big revolt from the African migrants in the area. Many of whom are poor labourers, picking fruits in the farms and living in some of the most dilapidated parts of the town.
As reported by the New York Time, the African migrants in Rosarno earn as little as euro20-euro25 ($30-37.50) in a dawn-to-dusk work day. Often without work permits, they do jobs many Italians shun, despite chronic underemployment in the poorly developed south.
Now the workers and the locals are about to see the worst part of the other.
By the following Friday evening, another two migrants were wounded in their feet and legs. Three more were seriously injured when they were beaten with metal rods, police and hospital officials said.
One of the migrants beaten by metal rods underwent a surgery for kidney injury and another was treated for an eye socket injury, and the third wounded in the attack was taken to another hospital for brain surgery, officials at Santa Maria degli Ungheresi Hospital, Polistena.
Having blamed the shooting and other attacks on racism, the angry African migrants took to the street, attacking residents, smashing cars, windows and apparently closing up activities in the town of Rosarno.
Police said late Friday evening that at least 37 people had been injured, including the five migrants, 14 residents and 18 police officers.
The police made several arrests on Friday to calm down the situation.
As reported by the New York Time, the Italians arrested included one who tried to hit a migrant with a bulldozer as the rioters headed toward the town’s centre. Another Italian resident was taken into custody after trying to hit a migrant with a car, the Italian news agency ANSA reported from Rosarno, a town of 15,000 people.
“This violence is unacceptable; but the migrants had been strongly provoked,” Agazio Loiero, the governor of the Calabria region, told Sky TV.
The two days crises, which led to the closure of schools and shops in Rosarno has been a real source of worry for the locals.
“We no longer want them here”, the locals maintained of the African migrants.
To prevent further conflict between the two parties, government decided, on Saturday to bring eight buses and transferred them, 320 African migrants, mainly Nigerians and Ghanaians to a secured camp in Crotone, 170km away from Rosarno.
Local residents applauded as the eight buses carrying the migrant workers left the town, AFP reports.
As the anger grows towards a halt, with more police called in to restore order, criticisms are feeding up the media.
“I really feel ashamed of what has happened in Rosarno,” an Italian told me via chat this morning.
The Italy’s Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni is not lying low against the criticism from the leftist opposition, suggesting that the violence was a result of not addressing the issue of illegal workers in the country.
“There’s a difficult situation in Rosarno, like in other places, because for years illegal immigration – which feeds criminal activities – has been tolerated and nothing effective has ever been done about it,” he said as was reported by ‘La Repubblica’, one of Italy’s leading newspapers.
In his reaction, Mario Tassone of UDC party stressed that the position of minister Maroni who threw all the blames on immigrants, as always is too shallow.
“We are talking about the people who came to our country, desperate and running away from poverty. They fall into demeaning conditions and exploitations… The problem of immigration should be confronted with sincerity…”
“Opposition leader Pierluigi Bersani said: “Maroni is passing the buck … We have to go to the root of the problem: mafia, exploitation, xenophobia and racism,” BBC.com.
For a Nigerian whom I spoke with yesterday in Verona, southern Italy, he was, however, sympathetic with the Italian people, even though he did not support the violence in Rosarno.
In his own words for having resided in Italy for over ten years: “I hate to hear some Africans criticising Italians or referring to them as racists, when we are sometime worst than they are.
We must learn to respect them for their tolerance and kindness towards the African migrants…
The time is tough for everybody; let us not forget that South African youth took up arms and massacred the citizens of their neighbouring Zimbabwe for migrating into their country… How much do we, Africans, really tolerate ourselves that we have to call others ‘racists’?
What has happened is only unfortunate. Those in authority should look for the best way to sort it out without playing politics out of it”.
Speaking to a Spanish newspaper, El Pais, the parish priest of a local church in the region said of Rosarno people: ‘the people of Rosarno are not racists. This is a war between poverty and territory, controlled by mafias… They are not allowing people to work; they want to kill us; that is all’.
Last year, six Ghanaians were killed in Castle Volturno, still in the south of Italy and the situation is in many ways similar to the one in Rosarno.
There are more than 4 millions immigrants in Italy, excluding the unrequested migrants, running into several hundreds of thousands.
Just as many migrants are not sure of what might be their fate in Italy, xenophobia and other politically motivated ideologies are yet to be rooted out from the system. It is in reality proving a hard nut to crack for those who try to promote integration and racial tolerance in the Italian society.
Ewanfoh Obehi Peter
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