Socialist Worker

Riots in Italy after racist shootings

The Italian state, the country’s ruling right wing government and the forces of organised crime all united to forcibly remove 1,300 migrant workers from the southern Italian town of Rosarno, writes Chris Bambery

Issue No. 2184

“Racial cleansing” returned to western Europe last weekend.

The Italian state, the country’s ruling right wing government and the forces of organised crime all united to forcibly remove 1,300 migrant workers from the southern Italian town of Rosarno.

The migrant workers were rounded up by police and driven to detention centres elsewhere. Those without the required papers have been interned pending deportation.

Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the racist Northern League, said it had “brilliantly resolved the problem of public order”.

In contrast, a front page editorial on one Italian newspaper compared the situation to Ku Klux Klan violence in the southern US in the 1960s.

Riots were sparked by the members of the local Mafia, the ’Ndrangheta, carrying out a drive-by shooting on immigrant workers returning from work.

An anti-Mafia judge said the shootings were carried out “just to remind everyone that they control the territory”.

Reports of the shootings prompted the enraged migrants to take to the streets of Rosarno, surrounding the home of one of the heads of a powerful local Mafia clan.


Another demonstration on Friday last week saw 2,000 immigrants protest in front of the town hall with shouts of “we are not animals” and carrying signs reading “Italians here are racist”.

The Italian government flooded the town with police and rioting spread as African workers took on both the cops and mobsters.

Italy’s agricultural industry depends on migrant labour and migrants with no legal status are seen as ripe for exploitation.

The migrant workers in Rosarno – mostly Africans – worked from dawn to dusk harvesting oranges and lemons for just 20 euros a day.

Flavio Di Giacomo, the spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration in Italy, said the events in Rosarno exposed how “Italian economic realities are based on the exploitation of low-cost foreign labour, living in subhuman conditions, without human rights”.

The response from the government was very different. The right wing coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi encompasses open fascist groupings and is peppered with politicians linked to the mafia.

Interior minister Maroni claimed the riots were the fruit of “too much tolerance”.

He also defended a proposal introduced by the Northern League last week to cap the number of immigrant students in public school classes at 30 percent.

The Northern League organises anti-immigrant vigilantes and has led attacks on migrant camps.


It built itself on racism against southern Italians by blaming them for the country’s Mafia problem.

But it has turned to targeting migrants and now finds itself in league with the mobsters.

The effective collapse of the country’s once powerful left means there is no effective opposition to the government and the racism it sponsors.

Roberto Saviano, the author of the best selling “Gomorrah”, which exposed the reality of organised crime in Naples, praised the immigrants in Rosarno.

He said they had done more than anyone else in Italian society to confront the Mafia.

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Tue 12 Jan 2010, 18:09 GMT
Issue No. 2184
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