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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 March 2019

Anti-racist organisations warn of ‘emergency’ as xenophobic attacks triple in Italy

In 2018 the number of physical attacks documented by Lunaria were three times those of 2017

People march during a demonstration against the government's social politics, its recent decree restricting the right to asylum, and against racism in November 2018 in downtown Rome. AFP
People march during a demonstration against the government's social politics, its recent decree restricting the right to asylum, and against racism in November 2018 in downtown Rome. AFP

Racist attacks in Italy skyrocketed last year, increasing from 46 in 2017 to 126 in 2018, a monitoring group has found.

Xenophobic acts of violence have more than tripled in one year, prompting anti-racist organisations to warn of an “emergency” in the country.

According to Lunaria, which has kept count of racially-motivated attacks for decades, the escalation is remarkable. In 2016, it documented 27 acts of physical violence, which rose to 46 in 2017. Last year, the number jumped to 126.

If verbal abuse, discrimination, and damage to private property were also to be counted, the number would then surge to a staggering 628, the organisation said.

“The increase in physical violence is staggering,” Grazia Naletto, Lunaria’s coordinator, told local media. “It’s an emergency.”

The upward trend is confirmed by data collected by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – which only monitors crimes reported to the authorities.

According to OSCE, 1,048 hate crimes have been denounced to the police in 2017 compared to 736 in 2016.

The latest figures on discrimination emerged as Italy grappled with yet another case of racism this week, when a teacher in an elementary school the town of Foligno – located in the central region of Umbria – humiliated a Nigerian child in class.

“Kids, look how ugly this black kid is,” the man, identified by local media as Mauro Bocci, is reported to have said.

“Get up, turn around, so I don’t have to look at you in the face,” he said to the child, according to media reports.

The boy’s classmates, however, did not stand idly by. A student replied to the teacher: “If he has to turn around and look at the wall, so do I.” A girl reportedly assured the boy he was the same as everyone else and told him to turn his desk back its original position.

Following reports from the students, Mr Bocci has been suspended.

While racism is on the rise in Italy, those who oppose discrimination are also becoming more vocal. Stephen Ogongo, a journalist of Kenyan origin, launched an anti-racist movement that got over six thousand subscriptions in the few weeks since its launch and now aims to become a political party.

“I chose to be against those who promote racism. I chose to be against those who have fun watching people die at sea,” Mr Ogongo, who founded “Cara Italia” (“Dear Italy”), said.

Updated: February 22, 2019 04:54 PM

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