“For me, southerners, blacks, Roma – they're all the same, I'm 100 percent racist. I don't give a damn what you think,” a woman can be heard saying in a voice message shared by Deborah Prencipe on Facebook.
In a post that quickly went viral, the 28-year-old from Foggia says that she signed a contract to rent a house in the village of Malvaglio, around 30 kilometres to the west of Milan, only to be told two weeks before she was due to move in that the owner was postponing the agreement, then cancelling it altogether.
While the owner apparently said she'd decided to sell the house instead of rent it, Prencipe says that the owner's mother contacted her to tell her that “the reason I wasn't allowed to rent the house is because I was born in Foggia”.
Prencipe accompanied her account with two recordings that she says were sent by the woman in question, in which she supposedly declared her hostility to southern Italians and expressed her support for Matteo Salvini of the League, a party that was founded with the goal of separating northern Italy from the poorer south.
“As far as I'm concerned a southerner is a southerner, in the 2000s or in the 4000s, that's why I held off… You're not Swiss, you're a southerner, it's different,” a woman can be heard to say.
In the second message, apparently sent after Prencipe had threatened to denounce her actions on Facebook, the same voice says: “Say straight out that I'm a massive League supporter, because Salvini had had it with all these southerners from the start.”
While we don't know the context of the recordings or the identity of the woman in them, Prencipe and her partner, Malvaglio native Laura Ortolani, said they had full records of their dealings with the family and would be pursuing legal action.
The couple are not seeking compensation, Prencipe told Ansa news agency, but to demonstrate that “the crime of discrimination” had taken place.
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The south of Italy continues to suffer heavily from poverty, organized crime and depopulation. The government will seek special EU status for its southern regions in order to help fund new investment, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced this week.
The League, which was in government until Salvini pulled it out of a coalition with the populist Five Star Movement last month, was until recently called the Northern League and built its base in the north by denouncing “peasant” southerners and the “thieving” national government in Rome.
Since taking over the League in 2013 Salvini has courted southern votes, touring regions he and his party used to insult and switching its agenda from demanding greater autonomy from the north to halting immigration.