Friday 6 December 2019

Riot police ease Rome tensions

Italian riot police protect the entrance of a refugee centre in the outskirts of Rome (AP)
Italian riot police protect the entrance of a refugee centre in the outskirts of Rome (AP)

Riot police have moved in to prevent residents in the outskirts of Rome attacking refugees living at a holding centre, in the latest incident of anti-immigrant tensions rocking Italy.

The working-class neighbourhood of Tor Sapienza has seen several days and nights of violence against refugees by residents who blame foreigners for crime.

The residents say they are not racist, but are fed up with what they say are years of neglect by government authorities who have allowed migrants and asylum seekers to settle in Rome's peripheries without providing adequate services.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has condemned the violence, saying refugees and unaccompanied minors fleeing war and conflict deserve protection, respect and help integrating, not "unacceptable" acts of violence and intolerance.

In a statement, the UNHCR condemned "extremists" who are capitalising on residents' fears to fuel conflict.

Officials at the "Smile" centre said unaccompanied minors living there - most aged 16 and 17 from Egypt and Bangladesh - are being moved to another centre in Rome for their own security after another small clash broke out today.

"We are scared. We are trying to find a compromise with the residents," said Francesca Amato, an official who works at the centre.

Italian commentators say at least some of the perpetrators are believed to be members of far-right groups - there have been chants of "Il Duce" in a reference to Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

The clashes come as Italy copes with record numbers of migrants arriving on its shores after fleeing conflicts in Syria and Africa. Earlier this month Italy partially handed over its sea rescue operation to the European Union after coming under pressure domestically to end the costly operation.

PA Media

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