Did the Mafia Set Off a Series of Racial Battles with African Migrants?

Rachel Donadio reports for the New York Times:


ROME — More than a thousand African workers were put aboard buses and trains in the southern Italian region of Calabria over the weekend and shipped out to immigrant detention centers, following some of the country’s worst riots in years.

The clashes began Thursday night in Rosarno, a working-class city amid citrus groves in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, after a legal immigrant from Togo was lightly wounded in a pellet-gun attack in a nearby city. It is not clear who pulled the trigger — the authorities said they were investigating whether organized crime had provoked the riots — but the consequences were severe.

Blaming racism for the attack, dozens of immigrants burned cars and smashed shop windows in Rosarno in two days of riots, throwing rocks at local residents and fighting with the police. More than 50 immigrants and police officers were wounded, none seriously, and 10 immigrants and locals were arrested before the authorities began sending the immigrants to detention centers elsewhere in southern Italy on Saturday.

The images emerging from Calabria over the weekend — of torched cars and angry African immigrants hurling rocks — were the most vivid example of the growing racial tensions in Italy, which have been exacerbated by an economic crisis whose depth has only recently been acknowledged in the national dialogue. Both the official and underground economies increasingly rely on immigrants, while Italy remains torn between acceptance and xenophobia.

Read the rest here.

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