The Court of Cassation ruled Thursday that telling non-EU foreigners to leave the country legally counts as racial discrimination, even if racial slurs are not explicitly used.
The case relates to a man in his early 40's who appealed for a reduction in his sentence for injuries against another person, which had been increased on grounds of racial discrimination.
The man and his co-defendant had clashed with two non-Italians after they approached them in a club in the town of Gallarate in Lombardy and said, “Why are you here, you need to go home.”
The applicant argued that his comments were unrelated to race.
The court, however, found that using generic expressions of contempt toward foreigners that are clearly based on their ethnic or religious backgrounds is equivalent to racism.
The ruling clarifies that Italy legally considers discrimination to occur in verbal attacks where racial superiority is implicit, and not only where racial slurs are used.
Italy's Interior Minister and far-right League party leader Matteo Salvini, known for making provocative statements regarding minorities and immigrants, responded to the ruling by writing "Go home, go home, go home!!!" on his Facebook page, above a picture of a group of black African men.
Last month he sparked ire among human rights groups by referring to a migrant rescue ship's cargo as "human meat".
Italy has experienced several racially-motivated attacks in recent months, the most high profile of which involved the shooting of six African migrants by a far-right sympathiser in the town of Macerata in February.