On Saturday Italy celebrated the 70th anniversary of its liberation from fascism and occupation by Nazi Germany with the Festa della Liberazione and remembrance events taking place around the country. The President, Sergio Matterella said that we “must never lower our guard, that this was how we reaffirm democracy. It is not a one time victory, that we must defend it”.
Only two days later, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Italy to press for global action after the drowning of more than 1000 people off the coast of Italy in the past two weeks, horrifyingly predictable after the EU’s withdrawal of financial support for Italy’s Mare Nostrum rescue efforts last year.
Whilst in the UK, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned in the strongest terms the Sun newspaper’s description of these refugees as “cockroaches” as language reminiscent of that used by the Nazis and more recently in Rwanda. “The Nazi media described people their masters wanted to eliminate as rats and cockroaches.” But such language, he added, was typical of “decades of sustained and unrestrained anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion” when it came to the reporting of migrant and refugee issues in the British media.
Scapegoating migrants and refugees only ignores the real questions our leaders should be answering. It is legitimate (to put it mildly) to be concerned about insufficient wages, lack of affordable housing, and the underfunding of public services. It is not legitimate to scapegoat foreigners. Britain is the sixth richest country in the world, and one of the most unequal countries in the Western world, where the richest 1,000 people have a combined wealth of a ludicrous half a trillion pounds.
Lest we forget what happens when the demonisation of others, especially in times of financial crisis becomes common place and acceptable. We need to remember, we should not be under any illusion of where this can lead.
Lessons from history which 70 years on still need to be told.