Since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government decided in 2015 to temporarily open its border to asylum-seekers and admit close to one million people at the height of what became known as “Europe’s refugee crisis,” Germany has engaged in a series of impassioned and sometimes ferocious arguments over immigration. Foremost among these has been the return of an old “integration debate”—about whether people from non-European countries can successfully become part of German society—even though no one can agree on what exactly German society is. “The question is not who we are, but who we can become,” the late British social theorist Stuart Hall argued, but Germany is poised uneasily in that polarity.
Across Italy, some 10,000 migrants and refugees are living in squats. In search of shelter, many have joined vulnerable Italians in occupying empty buildings. The housing crisis is not an accident. It is part of a deliberate strategy by the government to make Italy as inhospitable to migrants as possible. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has made attacking immigrants a cornerstone of his politics. At the same time, Italy has seen a resurgence of support for fascism.