In Melonis Italy, young black men are particularly at risk of ending up on the streets (2023)

Italy has been suffering from a real estate crisis for years. It's not that the problem has gone unnoticed. No shortage of itemsNational- or alsoInternationale– Media about students' struggle for access to cheap housing. In recent days, they have started erecting tents in front of university buildings as part of a growing protest movement against high rents. Founded by Ilaria Lamera, an engineering student at Milan Polytechnic who found it impossible to find a room under 600 euros,The demonstration has since spread to Milan, Rome, Florence, Bologna, Padua and Cagliari.

In Bologna, where I'm writing, rising student numbers and Airbnb rentals have put many at a loss for a home. But young adults also struggle with another, less discussed problem: persistent racism against people who are perceived as "foreign" or "different." When looking for rental accommodation in Bologna, the phrase “no foreigners” is a common phrase. This racial discrimination is normalized by brokers. It isare presented as if they were some kind of "eligibility criteria" for landlords, such as an employment contract and references. As if it were perfectly normal and acceptable for landlords not to rent to 'foreigners', by which they mean those who are racist and not me as a white British woman - also a 'foreigner'. Sometimes this becomes even clearer. For example, a volunteer helper in housing constructionlocal charity that helps migrantswas said by a broker: "Madam! You should have told me you were asking on behalf of an African! We don't rent to black people here” after she came to view an apartment with a young black African man.

Launched in 2022 and funded byLeverhulme confidenceMy current research at the University of Bologna examines the long-term fate of young men from West Africa who came to Italy as children seeking asylum and are therefore bureaucratically labeled as “unaccompanied minors”. While much has been spilled about the experiences of unaccompanied minorsKinder, is less known about what happens after she turns 18. But at that point, the rights they were granted as children, including the right to housing, may be lost.In my latest magazineBased on my PhD thesis I did between 2017 and 2018, I analyze what happens when they grow up and have to leave the shelter where they were placed as a childsocio-political landscape that is increasingly hostile to immigrationThis is based on an ethnographic participant/observation in a reception center for unaccompanied minors in Bologna, who worked as a volunteer key worker for eight months between May 2017 and December 2018. Extensive and repeated interviews were conducted with 12 young African youth (six Gambians, four Nigerians, one Ghanaian and one Somali) aged between 16 and 21 years. My current research includes a return to my fieldwork after four years and includes interviews with five of the young men (two Nigerians and three Gambians) to assess their long-term outcomes as adults.

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At the post office

Municipal administration has startedSPAD Anti-Discrimination Help CenterWhile action against racial discrimination is in place, it is still in its infancy and underreporting remains a problem. The firstSPAD reportdocuments reports of discrimination and housing appears to be the second most common area of ​​discrimination. The young men in my study show a weary resignation to the ongoing racism they face in the housing sector (and elsewhere).

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Innocent*, who is now 22 and came to Italy from Nigeria when he was 12, tells me that he has been looking for a place to rent for months. He often hears things like “"The owner is older, they don't want foreigners",von 'They're scared because you're black.

Innocent goes on to tell me that he regularly gets stopped for no reason by the police around the station when trying to get the train running. They ask him about his residence permit. I ask him what he thinks of it.

'I am really sorry', he replies,“Also because of the housing situation. We blacks, we are nothing here"

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Edrisa, a young Gambian woman, now 22, who arrived in Italy at the age of 16, reflects on the difficulties of finding a place to live outside the reception system. Plays with the Italian term for a residence permit (residency permit, i.e. residence permit), he tells me that many migrants, including him, “A residence permit but no apartment, that makes no sense. That is not correct“. This apparentlycontradictory situationof migrants who work, pay taxes and have the right to reside but cannot find housing is widespread.

Edrisa explains that as a certified contractor, although he regularly worked on construction sites, he was homeless for almost four months, traveling with friends and sometimes even sleeping in his work truck.

It's really hard for a foreigner to find a house here, actually not for all foreigners, but if you're black... Italians don't want to rent to black migrants. It's so hard."

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For Edrisa it is a combination of the real estate crisis and the racism he is exposed to as a young black man in Italy. He argues that racism stems from the stereotyping of Africans as backward and menacing, reinforced by the constant negative images of black and brown bodies arriving by sea. TheThe public discourseImmigration policies in Italy are characterized by the stigmatization of racialized migrants, who are portrayed as inferior and threatening.

In addition to landlords, Italy has long been plagued by racism

However, it is clear that it cannot be said that racism only affects landlordsas an individual mentality or an exception to the norm. Rather, we need to delve deeper into the enduring colonial legacies of racism laid bare in tenancy law. As anthropologist Bruno Riccio noted more than a decade ago:"Culturalist" interpretations of differences have led to housing segregation and discrimination in the Italian housing marketThis emerges from the recent statement by Italy's Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, Francesco LollobrigidaItaly's low birth rate means Italians are facing "ethnic replacement".“. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, also a member of the far-right political party Brothers of Italy, has done soI've made similar comments before. Laut OHCHRs (2019)Report on the mission to Italy on the issue of racial discriminationThe worst years for racially motivated attacks were 2009 and 2018; Both were times when public discourse was particularly anti-immigrant. During the 2017–2018 far-right legislature campaignIn Italy, racially motivated attacks have tripled. Lega leader Matteo Salvini is now a minister in the coalition government.

The coalition government recently introduced a new immigration law, the Cutro Decree (decreto Cutro), named after the Calabrian town nearbyAt least 72 people died in a shipwreck in February this year. The new law is controversial and receives a lot of criticismHuman rights organizations concerned about the increasing insecurity and the resulting irregularities. Citing a law that, after being shipwrecked, mandates increasingly restrictive immigration practices, as some are doinghuman rights organizationsArguments stemming from the same government's stricter laws and broader EU policies are highly problematic. While the law has no direct impact on the young men in my study, its impact is pervasive and fuels ongoing hostility toward racist migrants, such asbrought previous immigration laws under a far-right party. The gap between “us” ((white) Italians) and “them” (racialized migrants) is widening.

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i bologna,As in other gentrifying world cities in the Global North, the mobility of elites stands in sharp contrast to those who are racialized and denied access to the city, which increasingly risks becoming a spectacle of elitist privilege and tourist consumption. The community recentlyLocal action plan for an anti-racist and intercultural cityand has tried to regulate Airbnb;recognized as a challengePerfomance. But if Bologna is to become a city where more than just doors are “open” to young racist migrants, a deeper discussion of racism in Italy is needed, especially as it manifests itself at the political level.

*All names are pseudonyms


1. Italy after the Elections - Implications for National and European Politics
(Central European University)
2. Italian Fascism - 1922-2022. From Mussolini to Meloni?
(Global Affairs, King's College London)
3. Ukrainian President meets Italian PM Giorgia Meloni & more | News On The Hour | 14.05.2023
4. Perspectives on the Italian Election: The Victory of the Right and the Spectre of Fascism
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5. David Broder - Giorgia Meloni and Italian fascism
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6. Center for Journalism and Democracy at Howard University: Democracy Summit
(Howard University)


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