Florence eyewitness: Africans gripped by fear


A gunman opened fire in the southern Italian city of Florence, killing two Senegalese immigrants and wounding another two.

The gunman has been linked to a far-right group, which has disassociated itself from the killings.

Correspondents say Florence is considered one of Italy’s calmer and more tolerant cities.

A Senegalese man who lives and works in Florence tells the BBC how he feels following the attack.

Omar Ndiaye:

The shooting on Tuesday – when two of our Senegalese brothers were killed and another two wounded – has come as a shock to all of us and we are all very scared.

The shooting has shocked Africans in Florence
Senegalese traders are often the victims of racial abuse.

On the streets, people will call them names, accuse them of “stealing” the jobs of Italians and will tell them to go home.

My own impression is that the abuse has increased in recent years because of the economic crisis in Italy. People are more worried about jobs and are taking out their anger on Africans.

People have come up to us on the streets to sympathise and to show solidarity”

But I don’t know why the gunman opened fire, killing the two vendors. Was it racial or was there another motive? We will find out once there is a thorough investigation.

I don’t remember such a gun attack on Africans in the 10 years that I have been here – and it does make us all feel alienated and threatened. We are a fairly large community of Senegalese and Africans here.

Fortunately, most Italians have condemned the shooting and there is a national outpouring of grief. Here in Florence, people have come up to us on the streets to sympathise and to show solidarity.

I did not know the two traders who were killed by the gunman, but I used to see them around – selling goods on pavements or at social and religious gatherings of the Senegalese community.

Most Senegalese people who come to Italy start life as street traders. They buy goods from Chinese-owned shops and sell them on the streets.

It’s what I also did when I first came to Italy 10 years ago. I came here legally, but did not have the necessary documents to work.

When I finally got them, I got a job as a factory worker.

Now, I am a foreman at the factory. It is good to have a stable job and income, making it easier to support my family.

But it is very difficult to become an Italian national.

My son, who is just one year old, was born in Italy, but he is still regarded as a Senegalese citizen.

This is very unfortunate. How can he a person who is born and brought up in Italy not qualify for Italian citizenship? How can social integration become easier when we are treated like foreigners?

I don’t know whether my son has a future here – and I have become more anxious after what happened on Tuesday.

It may be better for him to go and live in Senegal, but we’ll see what happens.

Right now, our thoughts are with the families of the two people killed. Their bodies are going to be taken to Senegal for burial. I don’t think there is a cemetery for Muslims in Florence.

Source: BBC © 2011

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