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'Xenophobic climate' fueling policies, violence in Italy

The recent death of an African immigrant in Milan highlights racial and ethnic tensions.

ANGER: Italian immigrants protested, sometimes violently, July 19 near Naples over the deaths of six African immigrants.

Salvatore Laporta/AP

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For the past two weeks, groups of teenagers have mourned in front of "Shining," a snack bar not far from Milan's Central Station. Many leave flowers and cards. But some leave cookies and two euros, a provocative gesture referencing the killing of Abdul Guibre: the 19-year-old African-Italian youth who was allegedly beaten to death Sept. 14 by two shop owners for having stolen some cookies, worth a few euros.

This death comes on the heels of a recent wave of racially motivated attacks in Italy that are raising concerns about violence against minorities, and a potential backlash from those who feel they are unfairly treated as second-class citizens.

"This is the poisoned fruit of a process that began in the early 1990s, when the first boats of migrants came from Albania," says Jean Leonard Touadi, a lawmaker in Parliament and an African-Italian born in Congo. "Since then, a syndrome of invasion, fueled by extremists, has been spreading in the broader public, even though until recently Italy [had] a lower migration rate than the rest of Europe."

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