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Mafia and Italian state target minorities

A Kafkaesque decree handed down by a magistrate in the town of Pesaro on the east coast of Italy has sentenced two human rights defenders, Roberto Malini and Dario Picciau to prison or payment of a heavy fine.

Their crime? That they interrupted “or at least disturbed a police operation aimed at identifying three foreign citizens and used abusive language towards the officers from Pesaro-Urbino Police Headquarters and interfered in the carrying out of their duty”.

Malini and Picciau had offered support to a young Roma man who was being verbally abused by a police officer. They are joint presidents of EveryOne group, an organisation supporting Roma people and refugees in Italy. Italy’s Roma gipsy communities, which until recently numbered around 150,000 have seen their settlements around the country attacked. According to one estimate, three quarters of Roma camps have been razed to the ground over the last year. The physical attacks followed the introduction of fingerprinting of the Roma community in 2008.

In the south of Italy, it is not only the Roma but large numbers of African migrant workers, the backbone of much of the economy, who face mass removal actions by the authorities. In January riots broke out in Rosarno, Calabria after two African workers were shot. In shocking scenes of ethnic cleansing, 1,000 workers were removed.

But as the anti-Mafia investigator and journalist, Roberto Saviano has noted, the police work in tandem with Mafia rule. In Naples and Calabria, the Camorra and the Ndrangheta control all economic activities, he has shown. Saviano’s book Gomorrah revealed that the tentacles of these mafias run from Italy to China and around the world. In his YouTube film, he describes how the Camorra “is a European problem”.

Unfortunately Saviano is mistaken on one count. He believes that immigrants in the UK have “real and tangible rights”. In grim reality, there almost appears to be competition between Italian and UK authorities to mistreat Roma people plus other desperate migrants and asylum seekers.

Gipsies in Essex are currently threatened with a massive eviction operation at Dale Farm while the treatment of asylum seekers at detention centres run by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is now so bad that a hunger strike at the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre has entered its third week today.

Between 22 and 30 women are now in the 18th day of their hunger strike and fears for their health are growing. The All African Women’s Group (AAWG) and the Black Women’s Rape Project (BWRAP) are appealing for a moratorium on all removals of women involved in the hunger strike at the huge detention centre at Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire. They have documented the ill treatment, including racist abuse, of these vulnerable women and the enforced separation of mothers from their children.

But never fear, all is well. David Wood, strategic director for criminality and detention at the Home Office claims that all the detainees are "treated with dignity and respect, with access to legal advice and healthcare facilities". The women on hunger strike (restyled "food refusers") still have access to shops and vending machines. Looks like Coca Cola is still on tap.

More seriously, in the Manifesto of Revolutionary Solutions, A World to Win calls for a Bill of Rights to protect the rights of all, especially minority communities, and calls for the free movement of people, based on “no borders” principles.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
22 February 2010

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