Opposition politicians condemn far-right minister after series of racist assaults

Black athlete

Opposition politicians in Italy have accused the far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, of creating a climate of hate after a series of racist attacks that have coincided with his anti-immigration drive.

In the latest assault possibly motivated by racism, a black Italian athlete, Daisy Osakue, was injured early on Monday when unknown assailants drove alongside her in a street near the northern city of Turin and hurled an egg at her face.

I dont want to play the sexism or racism card, but people should be able to go out without someone attacking you out of the blue, said Osakue, wearing a patch over her eye. They are just cowards.

Doctors said Osakue, whose parents came from Nigeria, should recover in time to take part in next months European Athletics Championships in Berlin, where she is to represent Italy in the discus.

Police questioned whether she had been the victim of a racist attack, saying similar assaults in the area had targeted white people. However, opposition politicians dismissed those concerns and the assault dominated local media.

The attacks against people of different colour skin is now an EMERGENCY. This is now obvious, NOBODY can deny it, especially if they sit in government, the former centre-left prime minister Matteo Renzi tweeted.

Salvini,the head of the League party, has launched a crackdown on illegal immigration since entering a coalition government last month. This has included closing Italian ports to refugee and migrant rescue boats and urging officials to apply tougher rules on asylum requests.

Is there a racism emergency in Italy? Dont be stupid, Salvini said on Monday in response to the clamour over Osakue. Saying he stood alongside any victim of violence, he added: Certainly the mass immigration allowed by the left hasnt helped matters.

Salvini has come under fire from human rights groups and factions within the Catholic church for his uncompromising stance on immigration, with a popular Christian magazine comparing him to Satan on its front cover last week.

So many enemies, so much honour, he tweeted on Sunday, slightly tweaking a well-known saying of Benito Mussolini, on the 135th anniversary of the Italian dictators birth.

He also dismissed concerns about racist attacks in Italy, saying immigrants were to blame for a third of all crimes in the country. This is the only true drama, he said.

Salvinis comments exacerbated anger on the left. Violence is multiplying everywhere. But he denies it, said Maurizio Martina, the head of the opposition Democratic party (PD).

At least eight people from various African countries have been shot by air rifles since the start of June in possible racist attacks. In addition, a Roma baby was hit by an air pellet on a Rome street and could be paralysed for life. The Italian who fired the gun has denied aiming at the child.

I do not want to be ashamed of my country, the former centre-left prime minister Paolo Gentiloni tweeted on Monday.

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