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Impoverished native Italians rebel against Moroccan immigrants inhabiting social housing

12.12.2016 6:53
The impoverished San Basilio quarter in Rome, Italy. (PHOTO:
The impoverished San Basilio quarter in Rome, Italy. (PHOTO:

Impoverished native Italians are rebelling against the provision of social housing to immigrants. The inhabitants of Rome's low-income San Basilio quarter recently prevented a Moroccan family from moving into an apartment building for the socially vulnerable there.

The native Italians believe that such accommodation should first be awarded to them before being awarded to non-citizens but deny that their objections to non-Italians are racist and explain that their resistance to immigrants in social housing is being misunderstood. "This is not about racism, but justice," 26-year-old Enzo Morea, who is unemployed, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"To watch them move into an apartment unit when we don't have one of our own is hard to take," Morea said. He and his father Adrian have been living for several months at a car camping facility in Filottran, about 15 kilometers northeast of the historic center of the capital.

Prior to that they had occupied a social housing unit in a slum full of faded facades and vacant lots, but without the appropriate permission. "I divorced, lost my job, couldn't pay rent, so I moved in with my son," Adrian Morea said.

"We used to live here before they evicted us," the older Morea explained. "First we moved into the basement, then with some money I made under the table I bought a used caravan."

The Moreas were among 30 inhabitants of San Basilio who stood in front of the apartment building last Tuesday morning to block the entrance to one of the apartments assigned to the Moroccan family by the city's social security administration. According to some witnesses, the tone of the incident began to escalate and racist remarks were addressed to the family.

"Go back to your rubber boats, go home," the Italians told them. The Moroccan couple and their three crying children between the ages of one and seven ultimately backed down and gave up not just on the apartment unit, but on any attempt to live in that particular quarter.

Municipal police officers arrived at the scene to calm the situation. Journalists also arrived and news reports spread online with photographs of the incident.

"This injures the city and its citizens," Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi, of the populist Five Star Movement, told the press. She also promised that the city would "ensure lawfulness and the rights of the most vulnerable".

In the 8 December edition of the daily La Repubblica, the father of the Moroccan family expressed comprehension for those who had insulted them. He also said he did not know how to "explain the conflict to my children".

"We applied for an apartment according to the rules, we have been waiting since 2011, we have a right to a unit," the 40-year-old man, who moved to Italy 10 years ago and works on an assembly line, warned the press. For his part, Adriano Morea alleges that he also applied for social housing - back in 1991.

In the meantime, however, he said he divorced and no longer knows what the status of his application is. Other local residents are unhappy about the way the media reports on San Basilio, alleging that drug trafficking and racism is the only news reporting they ever see about it.

They believe such matters constitute just a fraction of the local problems worth covering there. "We are not racists, our neighborhood has been multinational for decades," said Simone Iacobini, who was born in San Basilio and has lived there for 36 years.

"However, it does seem to me that it would be more fair if the available apartment units would first be given to Italians," Iacobini told AFP. She also said she believed locals are understandably irritated given the persistent problems of crime, uncollected garbage in the streets and unemployment, which allegedly nobody is addressing.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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