In Depth

How Matteo Salvini is creating a ‘climate of hate’ in Italy

The coalition government minister and League leader has been condemned for anti-immigration policies

Italy’s far-right interior minister is helping to create a “climate of hate” with his anti-immigraton drive, opposition leaders are warning.

The country has suffered a series of racist attacks, including a drive-by assault on black Italian athlete Daisy Osakue yesterday that has drawn widespread condemnation. Osakue, whose parents came from Nigeria, was injured when unknown assailants hurled an egg in her face as she walked home in Turin, The Guardian reports. 

“I don’t want to play the sexism or racism card, but people should be able to go out without someone attacking you out of the blue,” said Osakue, wearing a patch over her eye. “They are just cowards.”

Opposition politicians say the increasing number of attacks points to Salvini’s growing influence over public opinion on immigration in Italy. The head of the far-right League party, Salvini has “launched a crackdown on illegal immigration since entering a coalition government last month”, and has closed Italian ports to migrant rescue boats, says The Guardian.

Yesterday former centre-left prime minister Matteo Renzi tweeted: “The attacks against people of different colour skin is now an EMERGENCY. This is now obvious, NOBODY can deny it, especially if they sit in government.”

So just what has Salvini done?

He suggested a ‘Roma register’

Earlier this month Salvini “dredged up dark memories” when he proposed to “register Romani communities in a census and deport those without Italian citizenship”,  reports Al Jazeera.

“Unfortunately, we have to keep Italian Roma people in Italy because you can’t expel them,” Salvini said.

Ian Hancock, a Romani scholar at the University of Texas, said Salvini’s proposal “smacks of neo-Nazism”.

During the Holocaust, Romani people were among the groups targeted by Nazis and their allies for deportation, internment, forced labour and genocide.

He quoted Mussolini

On Sunday, Salvini made what CNN calls a “veiled reference to the late fascist dictator Benito Mussolini”, one of the most controversial figures in European history.

Salvini tweeted “tanti nemici, tanto onore”, meaning “so many enemies, so much honour”, a slight variation on Mussolini’s well-known saying “molti nemici, molto onore”, or “many enemies, much honour”. Salvini posted the comment on the anniversary of Mussolini’s birth.

Outraged critics accused Salvini of “flirting with the ghosts of fascism”, The Daily Telegraph says.

“Mussolini destroyed and humiliated Italy, with a dramatic price paid in blood. If this is his aim, then the real enemies of Salvini are the Italians,” said Nicola Zingaretti, a prominent member of the centre-Left Democratic Party.

He turns migrant boats away

Following through on Salvini’s campaign promise to crack down on immigration, the Italian government refused to let a rescue boat with more than 600 migrants dock in June.

Weeks later Italy turned away another rescue boat carrying 224 refugees, with Salvini saying that the refugees “will only see the country on a postcard”.

“We cannot take in one more person. On the contrary, we want to send away a few,” he said.

“Italian ports are no longer at the disposal of traffickers. Open the Maltese ports! Open the French ports.”

Last year, Salvini was quoted as saying: “We need a mass cleansing, street by street, piazza by piazza, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.”

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