Reports of hate crimes in Italy increased fourfold in a year, according to data shared with Euronews.
They soared from 92 to 360 last year, figures from OSCAD — Italy’s official observatory that tracks hate crimes — show.
The figure in 2018 is the highest since the observatory began recording in 2010.
But the raw data does not tell the whole story.
Is this trend worrying?
Possibly. However, these figures can be relied upon to show very little about the actual increase in hate crimes in Italy due to the way they have been collected and owing to the fact they were gathered by a body that is not independent and which is answerable to the government.
OSCAD falls under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior — the right-wing League party’s Matteo Salvini.
The observatory gathers crime reports from various sources including law enforcement agencies, private individuals, but also from websites, newspapers and has a widespread network of police stations from which it collects data, which could lead to information that is not comprehensive and based on biased sources, like media reporting.
However, the independent NGO Lunaria, which releases an annual report on hate crimes in Italy, also reported a rise from 564 instances in 2017 to 628 in 2018.
The hate crimes they reported included racist messages on Facebook, anti-semitic graffiti and posts on the website of an embassy, a pork head delivered to an Islamic association, a press article on “someone who shot migrants from his balcony” with a pellet gun, and an attack on a black citizen who was travelling on a scooter considered “too expensive by his aggressor”.
Have hate crimes risen since Salvini and Di Maio took office?
Europe’s migration crisis meant hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants landed on Italian shores.
Immigration control has always been a central League policy and it wasted no time in implementing hardline anti-immigration laws as soon as it took office.
Salvini closed Italy’s ports to NGO-run rescue vessels carrying migrants and to all intents and purposes limited asylum seekers’ rights by tightening immigration and citizenship laws.
Despite anti-establishment Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio being outspoken in favour of left-wing values during the EU election campaign, the party never failed to support Salvini’s measures on migration in parliament.
The question of whether such instances have increased since June 1, 2018, when Salvini and Di Maio took office is difficult to answer in the absence of reliable data.
Mazio Barbagli, one of Italy’s famous sociologists told Euronews: “In Italy, only God knows the truth about hate crimes.”
“The National Institute of Statistics (Istat) might collect data, but it needs input from the government and no one, at the moment, is asking Istat to do this,” he added.
Nevertheless, the figures are surprising and highlight the need for an independent system to track hate crimes in Italy.
In 2016, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), established by the Council of Europe, recommended that Italy establish a national database on hate crimes as soon as possible.
Senator Luigi Manconi, former president of the Senate Commission for the Protection of Human Rights, said: “We are facing a frightening digital backwardness”.
Asgi, the Association for Legal Studies on Immigration, calls for the creation of anti-discrimination services in all regions.
“We need ombudsmen in every region. Discrimination is the biggest social and political issue of our time, it requires commitment and investment, not small offices, symbolic and not independent of political power,” said Gianfranco Schiavone, Asgi’s vice-president.