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Italian president warns against grave risk of ‘extreme nationalism’

Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella has warned against the “grave risks of extreme nationalism” amid rising racially-motivated violence against refugees in the European country.

Mattarella made the remarks on the eve of “Remembrance Day” which commemorates political and ethnic cleansing of Italians between 1943 and 1945 in the country’s northeastern border.

“Remembrance Day marks an agonizing chapter for our country…, a tragedy caused by a calculated initiative to purge on an ethnic and nationalist basis,” AFP quoted the Italian president as saying on Friday.

“The massacres, violence and suffering endured… cannot be forgotten, minimized or suppressed,” Mattarella added.

These events “make us aware of the grave risks of extreme nationalism, ethnic hatred and systematic violence spurred by ideology,” he said.

Yugoslav troops massacred thousands of Italians between 1943 and 1945, throwing both the dead and alive victims into “foibes,” deep stone cavities in the border area with Slovenia and Croatia.

Mattarella’s anti-racism remarks come as the issue of nationalism and immigration have turned into a major bone of contention ahead of Italy’s parliamentary elections on March 4.

Italy has faced the flow of over 630,000 refugees since 2014.

On Saturday, a right-wing extremist went on a racially-motivated shooting spree in the central city of Macerata, injuring several Africans refugees.

The 28-year-old assailant, Luca Traini, said the attack was in retaliation for the murder of an Italian woman allegedly by a Nigerian asylum seeker.

On Thursday, Macerata was the scene of clashes between the police and supporters of the right-wing group “Forza Nuova” who staged a rally in support of Traini’s actions.

In response, several pro-migration associations in Macerata have called for peaceful counter-rallies this Saturday.

On Thursday, Doctors Without Borders warned that nearly 10,000 refugees are living in inhumane conditions in Italy because of inadequate reception policies, urging national and local authorities to ensure that all refugees in Italy have access to medical care, shelter, food and clean water, regardless of their legal status.

In December 2017, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni announced the country’s plan to dispatch 470 soldiers to Niger to help the West African nation stem the flow of Europe-bound refugees.