Romanians: unwanted guests in Italy

by Uli Schmetzer

An emergency decree to expel poor Romanians illustrates once again our growing intolerance towards others.

Venice, Italy, Nov 3, 2007 – The ancient Romans extended citizenship and the protection of their formidable legions to loyal European vassals. Modern Romans are more circumspect: This week they decided to offer their hospitality only to those fellow European citizen classified above the poverty line.
At the discretion of local prefects the rest, those without sufficient means of support or living in campers and illegal cabins, can be expelled from Italy under a decree whose main target are the Romanians, the latest members of the European Community (EU) free to travel and work in any EU nation.

The Romanians have invaded Italy in droves.
The rape-murder on the outskirts of Rome of a 47-year-old woman, wife of a navy officer, allegedly by a Romanian gypsy, has prompted the center-left government of Romano Prodi to accept the clamor of the neo-fascist and nationalist opposition and pass a degree that makes it possible to expel from Italy beggars, car window cleaners, those camping inside cardboard cabins in shantytowns on the peripheries of the major cities or wandering gypsies living in campers.
The decree, a gesture of intolerance offers every town prefect the right to expel Romanians, mainly gypsies. The degree does not include the real rogues, the Romanian pimps and criminals working an estimated 30,000 Romanian prostitutes and earning, according to the late priest of the poor, Don Oreste Benzi, an average 200,000 euro a year. Romanian police say fifty per cent of those Romanians forced or persuaded into prostitution in Italy are children.
Of course the degree also does not punish Italians who solicit and use the services of child-prostitutes. These ‘end-users’ do not live in shanty towns.
In a nation renown for its bureaucratic sloth the decree galloped through the legislatures in record time as if it had simply waited for this kind of murder to bring it alive, just as the Patriot Act in the U.S. in 2001 (a mega-series of laws curtailing individual rights) flew through both Houses after 11’09’01 with supersonic speed when experts agreed it would have taken at least a year to elaborate such complicated legislation. Obviously the U.S. Patriot Act, like the Italian decree this week, had been parked in the wings, aware the right occasion would soon present itself.
If the Patriot Act went into action instantly so did this week’s Italian decree: Within hours police bulldozers crushed the first immigrant camps where the immigrants usually find their initial foothold before earning enough money to obtain more decorous living quarters.
In an act reminiscent of collective punishment – recalling those of the Nazi era or the punitive demolitions by the Israelis in the Occupied Territories – the State bulldozers flattened cabins in the camp where the alleged murderer had lived with his wife and child even though it was a Romanian woman in the same camp who led police to the alleged murderer.
The scenes of closed-down and demolished camps provided news broadcasts with images of the homeless Romanians pushing across the countryside prams and wheelbarrows containing their sparse belongings, images that could have been borrowed from the files of World War II.
No one with political savvy in Italy was surprised the first politician to visit this sad scene of politically motivated State reprisals was the leader of Italy’s neo-fascists, Gianfranco Fini. His party, xenophobic like all nationalists, has become a major force in Italian politics over recent years after Fini astutely joined the former government of Silvio Berlusconi. Riding on Berlusconi’s coat-tails fascism has gained a popularity it has not enjoyed since the days of Mussolini, a fact reflected in the space Fini commands in daily news casts on the three official TV channels.
And few must have been surprised the decree immediately acted as a green light for skinheads and neo-fascists eager to resort to the militia methods of their credo.
Within twenty-four hours hooded men armed with knives and batons set upon Romanians on the outskirts of Rome and beat them so badly three Romanians are now in hospital.
Against this outbreak of racism it was left to more sober-minded Italian women to strike a blow for rationality in a nation where violence against women has become a major problem.
A collective of Italian feminists left a huge banner across the Campidoglio, the seat of Rome’s city’s government. It said:
“Violence against women doesn’t depend on passports. It is committed by men.”
The women have scheduled a protest march against racism and ethnic victimization.
When Italians complain their country is inundated by immigrants they do have a valid point. But the complaints rarely admit the invasion is part of a tacit deal between politics and Mafia, one side which provides the votes, the other the legislation to favor certain projects in which the Mafia launders their illicit funds, participates in state projects or uses ‘slave’ labor as workers or killers as described in Roberto Saviano’s brilliant book ‘Gomorra.’.
Then there is a second sweetheart ‘deal’ between politicians and entrepreneurs. Both flourish on cheap illegal labor, the politicians with kickbacks and delivered votes, the entrepreneurs on vastly-reduced employment costs.
The case of Italy is unique in the EU:
Some four million immigrants have invaded the country over the last decade not in search of Italy’s legendary beauty but access to an easily available labor market in a society which would shut down tomorrow without the cheap labor force supplied by its immigrants.
The ‘black labor market’ is responsible for the fabulous wealth of Italian employers who, in their majority, do not pay social benefits, welfare or minimum wages to immigrants, a practice that is illegal on paper but largely tolerated by the authorities.
In other European nations employment is more strictly controlled and employers are more forcefully obliged to pay the social contributions and wages due to their workers. As the result fewer jobs are available, the labor market is more stable and black labor is considerable reduced.
Following the Patriot Act in the U.S. the witch hunt for ‘terrorists’ turned into paranoia promoted by the media. Until recently similar paranoia in Italy fueled by the media blamed ‘illegally residing’ Albanians for almost every unsolved crime committed. Any eye witness could be expected to tell TV cameras the wanted thief, mugger or murderer looked like an Albanian.
Over recent months the Albanians appear to have become honest citizen, one hardly hears about an Albanian doing something wrong. The new villains are the Romanians, the fledgling members of the EU who now, so the lament goes, use their newly granted European access rights to settle, steal and kill in Italy.
The irony of this argument is those Romanians who actually do the stealing, pimping and contract killing drive around in luxury cars and live in luxury flats and are therefore ‘untouchable’ – unless caught in an illicit activity.
On the other hand those who eke out a miserable and largely honest existence (otherwise why would they live in shanties) can have their homes bulldozed and themselves kicked out of the country.
That’s Italian justice, year 2007.


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