Police evacuated more than 300 immigrants from the Italian town of Rosarno Saturday after residents attacked several African farm workers who had been rioting for two nights in protest at their conditions.
AFP - Italian authorities sent in extra police and evacuated migrants Saturday from a southern Italian town after residents violently attacked African farm workers protesting against their conditions.
The clashes which began late Thursday left 67 people injured in the Calabrian town of Rosarno, latest reports said, but calm was generally restored Saturday, with barricades erected by locals dismantled and shops open.
Police said the 18 injured included 31 foreigners, the latest of whom was fired at with a shotgun on Saturday, 19 policemen and 17 locals.
Nine buses with police escorts evacuated 320 immigrants early Saturday to a reception centre at Crotone, some 170 kilometres (105 miles) from Rosarno, as locals applauded.
Police said some 100 more had fled the town on their own and preparations were going ahead to move another 300 out to centres elsewhere in southern Italy.
Police chief Antonio Managnelli announced late Friday the despatch of reinforcements -- which press reports said would number more than 200 officers -- to Rosarno.
The violence broke out Thursday when hundreds of immigrants, most of them Africans employed illegally as farm labourers, demonstrated after some of them had been shot at with air rifles, ANSA said.
Demonstrators set fire to cars and smashed windscreens before police intervened, leading to a scuffle that left several of the demonstrators wounded, ANSA said.
The disturbances continued on Friday with about 2,000 immigrants holding a sit-in in the centre of Rosarno while Italian residents blocked roads and occupied the town hall.
In separate incidents on Friday, two immigrants were beaten and seriously wounded with iron bars, media and officials said. One of the wounded was admitted to hospital for brain surgery.
Two other immigrants were hit in the legs with shotgun pellets and five more were deliberately run over by vehicles driven by locals, they said. They were lightly hurt.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, said the tensions were a result of "too much tolerance towards clandestine immigration".
The right-wing daily Il Giornale, owned by the family of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, agreed that illegal immigrants should be kept out.
But it added, "Once they are here, they cannot be shamefully exploited and shot at while they do work that our unemployed sneer at."
A priest, Luigi Ciotti, founder of the anti-mafia association Libera, pointed the finger at the 'Ndrangheta, the local criminal organisation which dominates Calabria.
"The mafia which controls the region cynically and pitilessly exploits the immigrants," he told the daily La Stampa.
"The criminal bosses know that illegal immigrants cannot even try to rebel because they have no identity documents and there fore no protection from the state."
According to Italy's main trade union CGIL, about 50,000 immigrant workers in Italy live in poor conditions similar to those in Rosarno, being housed in insalubrious huts without running water.
It said immigrants employed as farm labourers earned low wages of around 25 euro (36 dollars) a day.
The union also accused the mafia of controlling the sector and criticised Maroni's statement, saying immigrants were paid "miserable salaries and have terrible hours, similar to slavery".
Date created : 2010-01-09