Last week, police in Rome clashed with refugees occupying Piazza Indipendenza in defiance of an order to leave a building they had been squatting in. About 100 people were occupying the square when most of the 800 squatters were evicted from a closed office building in Via Curtatone that they had occupied for five years. Most of them had already obtained asylum status after having escaped from Eritrea and Ethiopia and had been living in Italy for more than a decade.
Many doubts have arisen regarding the reason and necessity of such violence and many political actors have used these events to underline, once more, the inefficiency of both local and governmental authorities to deal with the refugee problem in the capital. Surprisingly, neither the Mayor, Virginia Raggi, or the President of Regione, Lazio Nicola Zingaretti, responded to the many accusers and demands for clarification expressed by both activists and the political opposition. As such, the situation remains very unclear in regards to who gave the order and why.
Meanwhile, according to the Italian police, the refugees that were occupying the building had refused to accept housing offered by the city. The intervention was also justified on the grounds of the risk presented by the presence of flammable material and cooking gas canisters in the square as a danger and a threat to people living in the neighbourhood.
Furthermore, this event is the perfect illustration of how internal political disorganization and lack of external support from the European Union has resulted in the mismanaging of refugees for years. In addition, Italy is geographically and effectively on the front line of the European migration crisis, with over 600,000 migrants having arrived by boat since 2013. However, in spite of the Italian Prime Minister-designate, Paolo Gentiloni, often accusing other European countries of looking the other way, Italy alone has consistently been unable to deal with the problem.
Moreover, the facts also reveal the historical situation of a city, Rome, that has suffered for decades from the absence of long-term policies, corruption, and inefficiency. The current administration, guided by the Five Stars Movement’s Mayor, Virginia Raggi, has repeatedly failed to deal with Rome’s many problems and, in particular, with the humanitarian crisis represented by the overcrowding of migrants and refugees. Most of them, together with facing the chaos of both European and Italian bureaucracy, are also condemned to remain homeless because of the lack of assistance and support by both the regional and the urban administrations and are forced to rely exclusively on the aid of non-profit and non-governmental organizations.
Among these, Save The Children has expressed concern regarding the future of 40 kids that were evicted from the building in Via Curtatone, arguing that a long-term solution must be found that also takes into account the basic needs of these children and their families, as well as ensuring continuity in schooling and education. Caritas has also been very critical of the “emergency logic” often used by the police in the capital and has demanded the Roman administration find alternative solutions to monitor the situation.
With that said, what happened in Rome can be un-puzzled as the concrete and tangible manifestation of a crisis that is becoming more and more problematic at the European, national, and local level. As well, the crisis shows how violence has become the solution to poverty, and poverty has become a question of guilt. As such, until Europe, Italy, and Rome can keep on seeing the refugee crisis as their problem, rather than a global emergency, these people will continue to be de-humanized and mythicized as being invaders.
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