Racial or ethnic profiling in policing has been defined by the Council of Europe as “the use by the police, with no objective and reasonable justification, of grounds such as race, colour, languages, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin in control, surveillance or investigation activities”*.
It happens in Italy. It’s enough to go to any railway station to see how the police stop mainly young black males. It’s enough to read the local newspapers in any town to see how many times “African”, “Pakistani”, “Romanian” or “probably North African” young men are stopped and searched. And most of these people, mostly young men but young women as well, are innocent. They know that they’ve been stopped mainly because they’re different, because they’re a minority, and they see it as discrimination.
It’s been known for some time that in England a black person is nine times more likely to be stopped by the police. There are data on racial profiling in France, Belgium, Germany, Holland and many other countries, but in Italy it’s invisible; it’s a debate yet to begin.
“Progetto Yaya” is a project on racial or ethnic profiling in Italy realised by Coordinamento per Yaya and Occhioaimedia-Cittadini del Mondo di Ferrara, working together with Goldsmiths, University of London.
The project runs from January to June 2023 and has the primary objective of compiling a database of testimonies in order to make racial profiling a tangible factor in Italy, where, unlike in many other European countires, it is currently neither debated nor studied. To achieve this end, a website has been set up where people can recount their testimonies anonymously.
Another central part of the project is the linking up with other national and international organisations working on the same issue for the sharing of knowledge, experience and skills. Hence the collaboration with “Account Hackney”, a youth-led London group that has been combatting racial profiling in the Hackney district for several years through awareness, research and social action. This collaboration takes the form of a series of meetings and discussions, both remotely – as in OAM’s participation in Account’s “Amplified Voices” conference on 1st April 2023 in London – and in person – as in the two workshops organised in Ferrara and London.
Finally, drawing on the testimonies collected, the international workshops held and the expert advice sought, the project envisages the production of a toolkit for illustrating the results of the work done and outlining possible strategies for dealing with racial profiling, including a guide on what to do when stopped by the police and a discussion of further possible ways of combatting discriminatory practices.
The editorial group is made up of members of Occhio Ai Media, Coordinamento per Yaya and the Cittadini del Mondo association. The aim of the testimonies collected in this site is to make racial profiling in Italy visible, and to start talking about it.
Occhio Ai Media is a media-watch group formed within Cittadini del Mondo that monitors racist articles in the Italian press (website: www.occhioaimedia.org).
Cittadini del Mondo is a multicultural organisation founded in the nothern Italian town of Ferrara in 1993 with the aim of fostering integration and defending migrants’ rights (website: www.cittadinidelmondo.org).
Coordinamento per Yaya: on the 21st of October 2021 a 22-year-old Guinean on-call worker called Yaya Yafa lost his life in a terrible accident on his third day of employment on the Interporto industrial estate in Bologna, northern Italy. Following this tragic event, a group of Yaya’s friends in the nearby town of Ferrara, where he lived, formed the Coordinamento per Yaya and, together with the local Cittadini del Mondo association, organised a demonstration to honour the memory of Yaya and express their grief and anger over his loss.
This social action strengthened their resolve to take a further stand against the injustices of discrimination and racialisation. The group began collecting the testimonies of people who had been victims – often many times – of racial profiling, which then led to the realisation of the current project, dedicated to the memory of Yaya.