Simona Farcas: I am so angry with these displays of ignorance and intolerance

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The Independent Online

I feel proud to be Romanian but I also have a deep rage inside me. Let's be clear: I condemn any criminal act and my condolences go to the family of the victim. Justice must take its course and the perpetrators punished. But I think the wider problem is not the Romanians in Italy but rather a problem of Italian ignorance.

I was with an Italian family the other day and the elderly grandmother held an apple in front of my face and asked me, in all seriousness: "Do you know what this is? Do they have apples were you come from."

When there is a burglary or petty crime, it is easy to scapegoat foreigners and, unfortunately, because there are lots of Romanians in Italy, it is often us. Italians don't like foreigners. They fear we're all thieves who take the jobs that are rightfully theirs. They do not accept us. Then there are the businessmen who are happy to take advantage of young Romanians. At our welcome centre, which provides assistance to Romanians in Italy, we get lots of young people complaining of exploitation.

They are not given contracts, they are asked to work on the black market and are told they will get €40 (£28) for a 12-hour day. Then, at the end of the week, the businessman tells them it's not working out and sends them packing. Most Romanians are law-abiding and just desperate to work.

I don't think Italy needed this new law. It just needed to apply the old ones. Every day, someone is killed and crimes are committed without new laws being rushed in. The real problem is there are so many immigrants that the state does not know how to manage them. Now it is trying to turn the tables and put the blame at our door. The media speaks of nothing else. If they are going to expel people, it has to apply to all foreign criminals, not just Romanians. If it doesn't, there will be chaos. I have lived in Italy since 1993. I speak the language and have Italian friends. I'm proof that Romanians can integrate and live side by side with the Italian people.

Simona Farcas is the president of Italy-Romania: A Future Together