The Rosarno Riots and the European Debate on Immigration: A southern point of view

'Globalization is about the transfer of knowledge, capital, and labour. But labour is composed of humans, and humans should not be treated like capital. Europe cannot import labour without humans!'

by Ayman Zohry

The Rosarno riots between African immigrants and residents came as a sad opening of the year 2010. Rosarno, with its fertile land, is famous for producing citrus and olive, also produces xenophobia and racism. What happened in Rosarno is just a piece in the immigration puzzle of Europe. The last few years witnessed similar events, not only in Italy, but also in many other countries such as Great Britain, Spain, Germany, and France. It is clear that, despite the openness, globalization, and inter-regionalism, perverse tendencies of fear and racism are emerging more and more in Europe. Rosarno and Rosarno-like riots and violence contribute to draw a negative image of Europe all over the World and it will have its negative consequences on regional and international relations.

European politicians should be up to the challenges of globalization. Globalization is about the transfer of knowledge, capital, and labor. But labour is composed of humans, and humans should not be treated like capital. Europe cannot import labour without humans. Humans are not machines or raw materials. Immigration issues are undoubtedly becoming more and more instruments of political rhetoric, but politician are not up to the economic realities in Europe.

It is true that thousands of immigrants work as fruit and vegetables vendors, but can Europe survive without fruits and vegetables? Can Europe survive without the semi-skilled workers who do the dirty job for less? Immigrants are exploited, but at the end of the day, immigrants are humans who boost the economy by their labour contribution. In additions, immigrants are consumers and tax payers, at least indirect taxes. Moreover, immigrants subsidize the prices of goods and commodities by providing cheap labour that makes more profits for producers and less prices for end users in Europe.

The conclusion to be drawn from this quick appraisal shows that restrictive and blind migratory policies within people and society and the perverse tendency of fear and racism are against the economy. More openness is needed and balanced policies that match the economic needs of Europe should be adopted to contain the destructive tendencies of fear and xenophobia. Europe, from a southern point of view, is no more the El Dorado; it is more or less the same as the Arab Gulf states, a labour importing region and most of the semi-skilled workers in Europe dare to go back to their countries if they have a guarantee to return to Europe. Hence, circular migration between origin (in the south) and destination countries (in Europe) would be a possible solution.


Photo: noborder network/fickr