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Happy New Year (hah!) PDF Print E-mail
Jan 11, 2010 at 05:54 PM

Mr. B. is all better.

An apparently good-as-new Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi returned to Rome today, some three weeks after being attacked after a rally by a Milanese man with a history of psychiatric disorders. I, too, am back in Rome after two weeks in New York and Washington where I did not allow the icy cold and wind to disrupt a highly enjoyable vacation in which I was able to see most of my best friends, bought myriad things you can't get here or which cost less in the US, and ate my way through various Asian cuisines and good old US standbys such as pancakes, corned beef hash, scrambled eggs and bacon, corn muffins, donuts and the great New York bacon cheeseburger, with French fries and/or onion rings. Slurp. (Yes, I came back to Italy several pounds heavier but having returned to my near daily gym routine, I expect to soon return to normal.)

Meanwhile, both Berlusconi and I were greeted with an outbreak of what may have been the worst race riots so far to have occurred in Italy and which have once again shed light on this country's failure, despite a lot of high fallutin' words, to make sure the country's immigrants are treated fairly and guaranteed humane living conditions.

Happy New Year everyone!
The disturbances ended yesterday when close to 1100 foreign field workers, for the most part very black Africans, still something of a novelty in certain parts of Italy, were bussed out of several small towns in the southern Italian region of Calabria to immigrant identification centers in other parts of Calabria and in nearby Puglia.

The riots broke out last Thursday night in Rosarno, a small city of 15,000 where in 2008 the local government was removed from office because of criminal infiltration. The immediate cause was the shooting, with an air rifle, of two African immigrants. The result was rioting by scores of foreign workers who invaded the main streets of the town overturning cars and trash dumpsters and setting them on fire, smashing windows and throwing rocks. A few local people were slightly wounded, leading to retaliatory attacks by about 100 rosarnesi, inhabitants of the town, wielding sticks, crowbars and gasoline tins and heading towards one of the several abandoned factories where the grossly underpaid workers had sought to set up makeshift dwellings. Two other immigrants were shot in the legs with air rifle pellets. The government sent reinforcements and decided to remove the foreign workers, who seem to have left the area voluntarily.

If regular procedures - those established by the current law on immigration passed in 2002 by the previous Berlusconi government - are followed, the immigrants will now be divided into those who have a regular residence permit and those who are clandestini, illegals, who should be expelled. Italy's Interior minister, Roberto Maroni, who says there should be zero tolerance against illegal immigration, but who also decries racism (over the weekend he said that when racial epithets are shouted against black players at soccer games, the referee should immediately end the game) claims that 40,000 illegal immigrants have been expelled over the last two years but I am not sure I believe this.

None of the visibly non-Italian people I know have ever been stopped and asked for their papers. It may be that those expelled were the more recently arrived boat people from Africa or Asia. But Maroni, who also said the situation in Rosarno was a result of excessive toleration of illegal immigration must know that his own police forces do not do the job that law spelled out for them. Of course, whether the lax controls display Italian tolerance or the general lackadaisical-ness of Italian officialdom is a question for debate.


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