“It is unacceptable that sometimes in certain parts of Milan there is such a presence of non-Italians that instead of thinking you are in an Italian or European city, you think you are in an African city”.
So proclaimed Italy’s former Prime Minister and enduring icon Silvio Berlusconi,quoted in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in 2009. For good measure, he threw in the following specification: “Some people want a multicolored and multiethnic society. We do not share this opinion”.
These statements were, of course, simply par for the Berlusconian discourse, which has also included friendly references to Barack Obama as “suntanned” and the assertion that Western civilisation is superior to Islamic cultures.
But Berlusconi’s loose tongue speaks for a regrettably sizable segment of Italian—not to mention European—society. During my own visits to Italy in recent years, I’ve been increasingly regaled with tales from Italians seemingly intent on serving as caricatures of xenophobia.
My last visit ended two days ago. Were I to file a brief summary of the current migrant situation in Italy based entirely on conversations with said caricatures, it would go something like this:
“Migrants are barbaric. Migrants are dirty and diseased. Migrants are thieves and killers. Migrants are invading Italy because our governo di merda[government of shit] gives them money and apartments and cell phones, while it gives us nothing and makes us pay taxes”.
Other conversations, however, produced actual facts—as well as definitive proof that the Italians are not the fundamental victims of the migration phenomenon. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.