Far right shootings in Florence – December 12, 2011

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With all the focus on jihadis, it is important to monitor far right anti-immigrant violence.

There is no question whatsoever that immigration is a hot topic in many Western countries. The waves of humanity that headed our way after the 2011 Arab Spring caused angst and concern in many capitals. Among the emigres were Syrians fleeing civil war, citizens of many African countries seeking a better life and Afghans, among others, sick of decades of violence in their homelands.

Immigrant waves are of course not new: there have been instances throughout human history. What may have struck some as different was the sheer scale of this host: millions knocking on our door. Many were welcomed initially but as the numbers grew so did pressure to bolt the gates. Camps were established to pen these unfortunates in cramped conditions and some countries hurriedly erected fences to keep them out.

Language consistent with racist nationalism – “we want to preserve our land for true ____ (fill in the blanks)” – began to be heard.

What also rose up was a swell of anti-immigrant sentiment. Some of these feelings were moderate and legitimate – how can we deal with such a mass of people? – and some were less so. There were those who spoke in terms of ‘unwanted’ immigrants and ‘undesirables’. Language consistent with racist nationalism – “we want to preserve our land for true ____ (fill in the blanks)” – began to be heard.

2011 Florence shootings

On occasion this opposition turned to violence. On this day in 2011, a lone gunman with extreme right-wing views, 50-year old Gianluca Casseri, went on a shooting spree in Florence, Italy, killing two Senegalese street vendors and wounding three others before killing himself. The Italian far-right, anti-immigration organisation Casapound admitted that Casseri was a “sympathiser” who had frequented one of its centres in Tuscany.

Protest against Florence shootings
Senegalese men protest in Florence against the deaths of the vendors (Photo: EPA)
Similar attack in Germany

Similar acts of right-wing extremism and terrorism have occurred in other Western countries (in Germany over the first half of 2019 there were more than 600 incidents against immigrants, ranging from verbal slurs to arson and dangerous bodily harm.

Attack on a refugee home in Germany (picture-alliance/Digitalfoto Matthias)
Attack on a refugee home in Germany (Photo: digitalfoto Matthias)
Every country has a right to set its own immigration levels

Every country has the right to screen, and reject on appropriate grounds, immigrants. Those who believe all immigrants have an inherent human right to live wherever they want are not realistic.

However, we need to have a civilised debate on immigration. Even if immigrants have been shown time and time again to have a net benefit for their new lands there is room for disagreement. Civil disagreement.

What is not ok is killing immigrants out of some warped sense of nationalism or hate. We are seeing far too much extremism in this regard, some of it led by the words of world leaders (one of whose last names rhymes with ‘stump’). We collectively need to speak out against this.

We only have so many resources to devote to this problem and we really need to keep an eye on the jihadis. But we ignore the others at our peril.

Islamist terrorists may still carry out the lion’s share of attacks worldwide but we have witnessed a worrying rise in far right/white supremacist/anti-immigrant violence. We only have so many resources to devote to this problem and we really need to keep an eye on the jihadis. But we ignore the others at our peril.


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