Until when they will call them “foreigners”? - PhMuseum

Until when they will call them “foreigners”?

Paolo Patrizi

2014 - Ongoing

Rome, Latium, Italy

Italy has been slow to apply lessons from its own experience of emigration to the potential benefit of its recently settled immigrant people who suffer multiple forms of social exclusion and have been subject to mounting acts of harassment and racism. A series of hard-line measures abolished key forms of protection for migrants and make it easier for them to be deported. These measures can have a dramatic impact on the lives of tens of thousands already in the country. The ultimate aim is to have no refugees at all in Italy through a combination of efforts: closure of seaports, criminalising migrant rescue NGOs, enhancing collaboration with the coastguard and targeting those who are already in Italy, or who may come in future and not get any kind of protection. Populism and xenophobia rarely lose votes, especially on the right. Deep-seated racism is an issue given scant attention in Italy except in dramatic circumstances.

The legacy of fascism; the tangible insecurity, widespread economic misery for at least the last decade; are fertile ground for the nationalist and far-right forces to spread irrational fear of migrants. This has implications not only for the rights of migrants, but for the shape that politics will take in years to come. The most extreme leaders are trying to use the issue of migration to push a vision of the nation based on ethnic privilege and defined in opposition to racialised outsiders, be they Muslims, or unspecified dark-skinned “migrants”. 

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  • A lady at the tram stop of Torpignattara, a neighbourhood of Rome particularly identifiable for its ethnic diversity. The historical tram line runs along the Via Casilina and connects the city centre to the eastern periphery, an area characterized by densely packed housing and a population that hails from all over Italy as well as immigrants from abroad.

  • Eid-fitr. Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan. In Italy, Islam is not recognised as an official religion, unlike Judaism or the Mormon faith, and many Muslims from North Africa and South Asia feel discriminated against on the grounds of both race and religion. In Torpignattara, a multi-ethnic area of Rome, public events about Islam are not rare - especially during Ramadan. One event organised by the Dhuumcatu Association aimed to teach other Italians about Muslim practices by offering an Iftar dinner to their neighbours.

  • A man walks past a mural in the Torpignattara neighboughrood, The Wunderkammern association with the support of Rome Department of Culture was responsible for bringing international urban artists involved in creating high-value cultural and artistic works on the walls of the suburb. Leading contemporary artists like Carlos Atoche, originally from Perù who painted the mural became the principal agents in an urban renewal process, which also has social and cultural connotations, benefiting first and foremost the local community.

  • Mother and child on their way home from the Carlo Pisacane primary school, one of the most multiethnic primary schools in Rome.

  • A Barber shop in the Torpignattara neighborhood. Bangladeshi migrants have achieved what no other migrant community in Italy has: they have managed to take over a niche in Italy’s economy, attracting Bangladeshi and Italian customers alike, providing long opening hours, all year round.

  • Abdus Salam takes a break for his afternoon prayer inside the newsagent kiosk where he works. A report from the Italian Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, found the employment rate of Bangladeshi citizens between 15 and 64 years of age is equal to 59% of the total community, a value 2% higher than what identified for the total amount of non-EU migrants and about 6% higher than what registered for citizens from other Central-Southern Asian Countries.

  • An intimate moment during rush hour along the via Casilina on the historical tram line that connects the city centre to the eastern per iphery, an area characterized by densely packed housing and a population that hails from all over Italy as well as immigrants from abroad. Overlying Roman and medieval roads that led to ports in southern Italy, this part of town has, for millennia, been a gateway for those seeking to start a new life in Rome. For many of the migrants who live along via Casilina, this line is their only connection to the heart of the city.

  • A Bangladeshi immigrant was assaulted by a mob in Rome, an attack linked to the far-right's anti-immigrant campaign across Italy. He is part of Rome's 36,000 strong Bangladeshi community, which began to settle in the capital city in the 80s and 90s, thanks to the country's former policies that had eased immigration rules. But the recent wave of migrants aren't welcomed with the same spirit. The country, grappling with financial instability and widespread unemployment, now perceives the influx of the new arrivals as an economic burden. A judicial investigation has revealed at least 59 Bangladeshi nationals have been attacked in Italy by Forza Nuova, a far right political group, since 2011. A recent poll shows that 60 percent of Italians feel threatened by the presence of immigrants, and 11 percent condone, to some extent. Forza Nuova invokes the nostalgia of Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime and combines it with Catholic fundamentalism. Migrants and refugees in Italy are feeling at risk ever since the far-right deployed a hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric across the country.

  • A make-shift Mosque in Rome. Cultural centres and Musalla, which are informal prayer rooms, often housed in garages, basements, and warehouses, function as a places of worship, day care for children and cultural and educationalmeeting places.

  • Mother and son in the Torpignattara borough. Formerly an Italian neighbourhood, changes in the economy made it attractive to the working class, and specifically to immigrants. Today this area is the home to a cohort of elderly Italians who have managed to maintain their properties, and for young to middle-aged immigrants from around the world.

  • Durga Puja. Bangladeshi participants in this annual celebration of Dharma’s victory over Adharma, of the triumph of good over evil.

  • A man on his way home after Friday prayer in the Pigneto neighbourhood in the eastern periphery of Rome.

  • Men lined along the pavement outside a makeshift mosque during Friday prayer. Cultural centres and musalla, which are informal prayer rooms, often housed in garages, basements, and warehouses, function as a places of worship, day care for children and cultural and educational meeting places.

  • A street scene bathed in winter sunlight. Women walk past a mural on Via di Torpignattara, in the eastern periphery of Rome.

  • Women gathered to celebrate Poela Boishakh 1425. 14th April, the first day of the Bengali Calendar is a huge celebration for all communities irrespective of their religion. This is the single biggest celebration that Bangladeshi have observed since the war of independence. Most celebrations in Bangladesh are religious but the Poela Boishakh is the single biggest and non-communal celebration that stems from the national cultural values of Bangladeshi.

  • A child performs a traditional dance amongst a crowd of onlookers. Pohela Boishakh is an event like very few others. Shorn of all religious, societal or political influences, is simply a celebration of the people and the unifying spirit of Bengal. In an explosion of colour, every Pohela Boishakh sees Bangladeshis from all walks of life celebrating the coming year with much fun and enthusiasm.

  • A family awaits the beginning of a concert during the new year holidays. An event organised by the Dhuumcatu Association

  • A travel agent’s employee. In the oriental area of Rome, a growing ethnic economy is flourishing. Bangladeshi migrants have achieved what no other migrant community in Italy has: they have managed to take over a niche in Italy’s economy, attracting Bangladeshi and Italian customers alike, providing long opening hours, all year round. Not only have they learned how to be successful in a foreign country, not to mention mastering a foreign language so far removed from their Sanskrit-rooted Bengali – they are also providing for their families in Bangladesh, sending remittance money home every month to support their relatives. Poverty and high unemployment have made migration an integral part of Bangladeshi society and culture. Male members are now invariably expected to migrate to cities or overseas to uplift the family financially. With 140,000 residents, Italy has the second largest Bangladeshi community in Europe after Britain.

  • Hundreds of Muslims pray next to Rome's Colosseum to protest against the closure of makeshift mosques, calling on city authorities to protect their religious rights. Worshippers knelt on prayer mats and tarpaulin on the pavement meters away from the ancient amphitheatre. Some held placards reading "Peace" and "Open the mosques”

  • Hundreds of Muslims pray next to Rome's Colosseum to protest against the closure of makeshift mosques, calling on city authorities to protect their religious rights. Worshippers knelt on prayer mats and tarpaulin on the pavement meters away from the ancient amphitheatre. Some held placards reading "Peace" and "Open the mosques”. At least 1.6 million Muslims live in Italy but there are only a handful of mosques officially registered as such with the government. Most worship takes place in houses and Islamic cultural centres - a development that some right-wing politicians have said makes them difficult to monitor, raising the risk of radicalization, particularly in the wake of militant attacks across Europe. The rights group that organized the demonstration, the Dhuumcatu Association, said police have closed three improvised mosques in Rome. In Italy, Islam is not recognised as an official religion, unlike Judaism or the Mormon faith, and many Muslims from North Africa and South Asia feel discriminated against on the grounds of both race and religion.


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