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Not a good time to be a Romanian in Italy

A few years back, those from Albania were regarded as undisirables by Italy. Now, and perhaps a little ironically, people from Romania have become targeted as being unwanted immigrants into Italy.

Recently, a Romanian man was charged with the brutal rape and robbery of an Italian woman down in Rome, sadly the woman concerned has now died, and so the alleged perpetrator has now found himself with an additional charge, that of murder. Whilst the young man involved appears to have admitted to the robbery, he has being denying that he actually raped the lady in question.

This incident has stirred up a hornets nest in Italy, with the government having passed emergency powers which include the deportation of Romanians and just about any other European who is considered to be dangerous. The fact that the poor lady in question was married to an officer in the Italian navy seems to have spurred the Italian politicos into surprisingly rapid action, rightly or wrongly.

I’m not too sure just how exactly the term ‘dangerous’ has been defined, but the police have been very swift to act and have been dismantling and rounding up the inhabitants of the odd shanty towns which can be found throughout Italy right left and centre. These shanty towns are often located on pieces of wasteland and the ‘houses’ are constructed from just about whatever debris can be found.

The inhabitants of these places, often young, often without papers, manage to find work on building sites and as causal labourers. However, life in these places must be quite dire, and extracurricular activities often include petty and not so petty crime, which are seen as easy ways to make some money and escape from a form of hell on earth, I imagine. Italian crime figures appear to indicate that Romanians are behind many offences in Italy, and this information seems to have fuelled the current fire.

One could, of course, ask just how the woman who recently lost her life managed to find herself in an unlit area close to one of these ‘favelas’. Until quite recently, Italy had been quite a safe place for women to be alone, but this tragic event, if nothing else, should convince Italian women to not go out unaccompanied a night, especially not near a shanty town occupied by potentially unsavoury inhabitants.

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One can feel a little sorry for the inhabitants of such places and especially for those from Romania. Looking back at the history of the place, it was perhaps Ceauşescu’s murderous regime that could be blamed for having brutalised a proportion of the population of his country. His legacy continues and Romania is still a country with a strong underworld influence; at least that is what I have understood from one Romanian guy I know – who would not return to his country because he literally feared for his life.

Prior to the country’s joining the European Union, the best way to escape from the harshness and poverty of society there was to escape to another country. Before Romania became part of the EU, the only way to do this was to immigrate illegally, which is what many people did, especially, it seems, young men. Some of these Romanians looking for a better life ended up in Italy.

Many did not have any official documents, and some were on the run from the Romanian police. This left these people with little option but to enter the Italian shanty town micro-communities, and, often, one suspects, fall in with bad company. A few managed to find work, but not many have managed to legitimize their status in Italy, and having a criminal record back in their own country has not made matters much easier for a number of these people, who know that having a criminal background will not do give them much hope of becoming legitimate members of Italian society.

While there are organisations in Italy that can and do help illegal immigrants, they are not well known and not well funded, and even so, those with criminal records or accusations against them, are reluctant to become involved with any body that they perceive to represent authority. And so the downward spiral continues.

Now, as a result of Romania’s entry into the EU, it is possible to obtain documents and to immigrate legally, but the changes in Romanian law have come too late for many of the shanty town occupants. And to make matters worse, as a result of very recent events effectively all Romanians have now become labelled as criminals, which has led to attacks motivated by racism against them in Italy. It is not a good situation.

Kicking the unwanted out of Italy is one option, not a very imaginative one, and one that was bound to stir up a backlash against all Romanians here. The only trouble is that these people have to go somewhere, so moving them out of Italy is really only brushing the problem under the carpet, not really solving it.

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