Crime and Punishment, Refugee Style

The horrible murder of Giovanna Reggiani late last month by a young Romanian Roma near a refugee camp in the suburb of Tor di Quinto in Rome shocked both Italy and Romania. But to compound the tragedy through measures that target an entire minority is irresponsible, and will have grave moral and social consequences not only for the unjustly punished, but also for the punishers.

The horrible murder of Giovanna Reggiani that took place near a Romanian refugee camp in the suburb of Tor di Quinto in Rome shocked both Italy and Romania. The case gained significance by adding fuel to the fiery public debates now underway not only in Italy but across Europe on the status of refugees and foreign residents.

Some Italians responded violently; some Italian and Romanian politicians, eager to offer quick and tough solutions, made scandalous statements that echoed the xenophobic and totalitarian slogans of the past. We are encountering, not without irony, a kind of grotesque reverse of the “national pride” seen when cultural and sporting stars are appropriated by the state and presented as part of the collective patrimony.

Although the murder was an individual crime, to compound the tragedy of a crime through measures that target an entire minority is irresponsible, and will have grave moral and social consequences not only for the unjustly punished but also for the punishers. No minority is, after all, homogenous, which was demonstrated by the fact that the person who alerted the police was a compatriot of the killer and from the same camp of refugees.

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