Filipinos in Italy fall victims of xenophobia amid Covid-19 scare


By: Rhoderick Ople

The novel coronavirus named Covid-19, can be considered as one of the most destructive epidemics to have ever affected humanity in the 21st century, causing more than a thousand deaths in China alone in the last three months. As the number of infected rises dramatically, so does the death toll.

So far, Covid-19 has killed about 1,113 people and infected more than 45,000 people worldwide.

As fatality rapidly rises globally, xenophobia and racism has been experienced by Asian communities in many countries all over the world, including Italy. The global spread of the virus seems to have encouraged aggressive behaviour and hostility toward Asian people lately, even in Italy where only two confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported.

Demetrio Elida, a 31-year-old Filipino crew at a Chinese restaurant in one of Italy’s major cities, has been assaulted by three men in their 20s on the night of February 07 while waiting for his bus ride. Elida said his attackers, whom he believed to be Italians verbally harassed him, saying he is infected by the virus, before physically assaulting him.

“They hit me with a hard object that made me unconscious. When I came about, I noticed that my face was covered with blood,’’ Mr. Elida told Rights Corridor.

Some witnesses brought Mr. Elida to a nearby hospital, where doctors said he is in a stable condition despite suffering severe injuries.

Mr. Elida said he is determined to file a formal complaint against his attackers. “I want the perpetrators to be held responsible over the attack so this kind of discrimination will not happen to others,’’ he said.

In Calabria, a 5-year-old Filipino child – mistakenly thought to be Chinese, was verbally abused and physically hurt at a local playground. According to a witness, the girl went to play with other children when a parent told her, “You Chinese people are contaminated.’’

She was later kicked by one of the children, while playing. The girl’s parents claimed that Chinese-looking children in their area are being avoided by friends due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

In Parma, a Filipino-Italian man claimed to have been assaulted by a group of Italian young people while walking with friends at the city centre.

“Get out of here, you are a virus,’’ he was told. He was later kicked in the stomach by a member of the group.

“The act was insane and very humiliating. The worst enemy of this group of Italians is ignorance, not the virus. What is really alarming is that there is no medicine for ignorance,’’ said the victim.

In Florence, Italy, incidents of racism have also been reported.

While disembarking a tram, a Filipino migrant worker overheard this remark: “These people eat bats and rats. They are dirty. The only place I feel safe is the toilet. It would be a trouble if these guys sneeze on us.”

This reporter was not spared by the xenophobia targeted at Asian people in the country. A white male called me, “Dirty b—-!” when I accidentally collided with him at a restaurant where I was having Sunday brunch with my family.

More than physical damage the rise of xenophobia and racism are taking a toll on Asians across Italy. For Filipino couples with children, leaving the home is becoming an ordeal. Many Asian adults claimed to have been shunned on buses and trains since the outbreak. Filipino migrants in Italy are ostracised mainly because of misconceptions about Asians. Anyone who has Chinese appearance becomes a target of hate.

(Reporting by Rhoderick Ople, contributor for Rights Corridor; Editing by Henri Abenis-Macahilo)