Death of a Migrant

Sick refugee. Torino, August 2018.

The flyers were everywhere. Posted to the walls of buildings throughout San Salvario, they described the death of a 19-year-old Arab woman, who was being chased by the immigration place.

The story, translated into four different languages – English, Arabic, Italian and French – was designed to appeal to the migrant-heavy neighbourhood in central Turin.

A historic destination for refugees from Africa and the Middle East, the woman in question, Latifa, had fallen off the roof of a building on Berthollet street, during a raid in 2018.

For those who bothered to read the flyer, it was a depressing reminder of the precarity that refugees increasingly find themselves under the current Italian government.

Repeatedly attacked and scapegoated by Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy premier cum interior minister, one can only imagine how many other Latifas must be dying fleeing his security forces.

But one must be careful not to put all the blame on Salvini. He’s just doing what most of his predecessors have done before, including under centre-left governments.

The difference is that he’s an ideologue. There is a pronounced meanness and hatred in his descriptions of people of different races and nationalities, which can be unprecedented, at times.

The fact that people like Latifa fall off buildings, fleeing the cops, is of course only the tip of his iceberg. God forbid those women – and men – Salvini’s henchman get their hands on.

Migrant mourning flyer. Torino, January 2019.

The problem is that the migrants Salvini is roughing up are so vulnerable and helpless, one has to ask what purpose it serves to finish them off. After all, they’re going to die anyway.

Without a doubt, the cruelty displayed is a way of threatening Italians. Abusing the weakest members of Italian society as props, Salvini is communicating his superiority to his subjects.

His supporters can’t make sense of that because there’s so much catharsis in the racism. Seeing it inflicted on blacks and Arabs, they get unprecedented relief from their own difficulties.

Desperation is like that. When you have nothing, you take what you can get. Salvini knows that, which is why he goes to such great efforts to portray his brutality as protecting Italy.

Salvini has to because if he didn’t, eventually the cruelty would become overwhelming and everyone would realise he’ll be coming for them in the not so distant future, too.

That’s why this flyer is so enraged. It is its own expression of exasperation, about an intractable situation in which the only thing that politics can do is kill people.

Hence, the start of this edition of Randomizer, with the photograph of a very ill-looking migrant, wearing a hoodie in the August heat.

It’s highly unlikely he’s still alive. The right thing to do would have been to save him, not see his vulnerability as an opportunity to appear more powerful.

Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit. All rights reserved.