UN condemns Italy's 'unashamed racism and xenophobia' in human rights statement

Migrants 'will be at greater risk from traffickers and other criminal groups' if new security decree is implemented, say special rapporteurs

Matteo Salvini interview with Massimo Giletti

A rise in hate attacks in Italy cannot be separated from politicians “unashamedly embracing racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner rhetoric”, the United Nations has said.

UN special rapporteurs also condemned “smear campaigns” against groups rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean and criminalisation of the work of those who defend migrant rights.

They said people of African and Roma descent in particular had suffered in a rise in racist incidents.

The UN added that 169 racially motivated incidents were recorded during and after elections in March, 19 of which were violent attacks. The polls saw two anti-establishment parties, the Five Star Movement and the right-wing anti-illegal migrant League party come out ahead.

Rapporteurs also attacked a planned move to restrict immigration rules in Italy, which they said would “certainly lead to violations of international human rights law”.

The Decree-Law on Immigration and Security, pushed by far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini, includes measures that would abolish humanitarian protection status for migrants and block asylum seekers from accessing reception centres designed to combat social exclusion, the UN said.

It has passed the Italian senate and is due to be voted on by parliament’s lower house later this month.

In October, Mr Salvini, also the League's federal secretary, said he wanted to amend the decree to include restrictions on opening hours of “ethnic shops”.

The restrictions add to a number of policies instituted by the government aimed at foreigners and ethnic minority groups. The policies include crackdowns on pro-immigration local politicians, turning away refugee ships, and a “census” of Italy’s Roma traveller population.

A group of UN special rapporteurs said in a statement that migrant rights were at risk due to a “climate of hatred and discrimination” in the country.

They said: “During the most recent electoral campaign, some politicians fuelled a public discourse unashamedly embracing racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner rhetoric. Such speech incites hatred and discrimination.”

They added: “Removing protection measures from potentially thousands of migrants and limiting their ability to regularise their stay in Italy will increase their vulnerability to attacks and exploitation.

“They will be at greater risk from traffickers and other criminal groups, and many will have no means to meet their basic needs through lawful means. Exclusion also leads to social tensions and to more insecurity. An inclusive approach would therefore benefit not only the migrants, but also the Italian people.”

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The group admitted Italy faced challenges due to “the absence of an effective European-wide system of solidarity” in relation to migrants arrivals, but added: “The government must adhere to the values enshrined in the Italian constitution, and the international commitments it signed up to.”

The Independent has contacted the Italian interior ministry for comment.

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