The Limits of Hospitality and the Rosarno Riots: What Have We Learned?

Because illegal immigrants live in a state of “hiding in plain” sight, and because so many of them exist in the unfortunate position of living truly on the margins, no one ever expects them, either individually or collectively to not only advocate for their own rights, but to demand them.

Because immigrants, in general ,tend to be seen as “guests,” illegal immigrants are “unwanted” guests—intruders who don’t belong, and therefore, it is (unreasonably) reasoned, they are in the position to demand nothing—not even the right to be treated with basic human rights.  This is the way in which immigrants become politicized—their very existence becomes a national concern, but not in the benevolent sense, but rather a problematic one.   If you are not a citizen, if you are not naturalized, then you are, well, denaturalized—in essence, unnatural, unwanted.  Hannah Arendt, knew a thing or two about having rights and the criminal deprivation of them, which led her to proclaim ‘the only human right is the right to have rights.’

Bullet-ridden sign

In 2008 in Rosarno, Calabria, Italy, a gunman entered an abandoned factory where migrant farm workers were sleeping, resulting in the shooting of two of them and seriously injuring a young migrant form Cote d’Ivoire.  In response, they peacefully protested by taking to the streets to deliver a formal request to the town commissioner for more fair and humane treatment.  Tensions, while largely contained festered below the surface until 2010 when town youths attacked, unprovoked, migrant farm workers with air rifles as took to the streets, predictably they were met with the force of the police, whose patience against the migrants who they felt were intruders, it can be presumed, was running as short just as everyone else’s  in the town.  Fanning the flames of fear and hatred, Roberto Maroni, an Italian interior minister and member of the anti-immigrant Lega Nord (Northern League) proclaimed that tolerance towards the existence of migrants is what caused the tension. These types of tensions are great opportunities for members of the far right, as it provides them the opportunity to say, in essence, “we told you so.”


This image speaks for itself

The toll: 53 injured: 18 police, 14 locals and 21 immigrants.  The International Organization for Migration called the violence in Rosarno among the worst in recent Italian history.  Officials bused the migrants out of the town and put them in “holding facilities” for “their own protection.”  The reality of the immigrant/migrant is such that their lives’ already so devoid of any kind of security either physically or mentally, and there is a limit to the reserve energies that one has in protecting one’s own rights.  The men had no choice.  The town was “cleansed” (really, there seems to be no other word for it) and the seeds of fear were politically sewn, as politicians are expert   verbal seamstresses.  The cruel irony is that if the men had stayed, they would have been hunted as the criminals they were perceived to be.  But, still, they fought what could be called “democratic racism” the institutionalized and ideological notion that these illegitimate, illegal and almost certainly criminal population is a threat to the law and order of a peaceful (read “white”) town, conveniently forgetting the underground economy and heavily entrenched activity of the ‘Ndrangheta in the region.

Angry Rosarno residents

Anthropologist  Shahram Khosravi states:

“Unconditional hospitality means being open to a person who is not like oneself who is not the one wanted or expected.  Hospitality is only real when it is extended to a person absolutely different from oneself.  Unconditional hospitality entails recognizing the others right to have rights—the basic right of human rights.”

As can be expected, really, there is so much more to this story and the struggles of countless, literally countless, others in countries all over the European Union.  Is Rosarno symbolic?  Perhaps, but maybe not in the way we’d like to believe.  The struggle goes on as migrants denounce the Bossi-Fini Law, which they condemn as a labor-market law allowing for the blackmailing of immigrants amongst other practices seen as fundamentally exploitative and unfair.

How has life for Italy’s immigrants/migrants really changed?  Probably, not much.  The situation in Rosarno, reportedly, is not much different, given, not in small part, to the collective memory of the townspeople of the violence there and the attitudes against migrants in general.  All over Italy, due to  corruption that led   to the  draining of funds, refugee centers are closing. With a precarious, to say the least, economy, the vulnerability of immigrants, migrants and refugees becomes even more so.  A sad, but true fact.

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2 thoughts on “The Limits of Hospitality and the Rosarno Riots: What Have We Learned?

  1. Justiceman says:

    Italy is corrupt, the mafia still wields huge power and then there are many asylum seekers who think that the streets of Italy and the EU are paved with gold. Time to stop this racketeering because many working class communities are bearing the brunt. Few relatively speaking are refugees, many are economic illegal immigrants. Stop this Racket!! and let us all unite from Sweden to Lampedusa, Malta and Cyprus to stop this evil trade!!!

  2. Justiceman says:

    To Shahram Khosravi -even host communities have rights. Why not state the problems that illegal immigrants create with their criminality and anti-social behavior? What about those who claim they are asylum seekers when they are not? Ask those who live in Goteborg, or in brixton or the French bainlieuses, and many other communities who themselves end up foreigners in their own countries because of those who do not want to integrate? Do you want to see repeats of what happened at Rosarno or in Greece? Do you want to see more fascist movements as in Greece? No I don’t. Nor do I want ILLEGAL immigration. Just exercise this influence to stop this racket! A substantial amount of African asylum seekers could have found refuge in the first safe African country. The Syrians have Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc. I am not saying the EU should not take in refugees but this does not mean that we should have uncontrolled influxes of undocumented migrants either!

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