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Dozens hurt in riots after attack on migrant workers

The number of injured in clashes between locals and migrants in the southern Italian town of Rosarno has risen to almost 40 after a second night of racially charged violence allegedly sparked by an attack on mainly African farm labourers.


AFP - Residents of an Italian town beat with iron bars, shot at and ran over immigrants Friday, wounding nine -- two seriously -- in a second night of racially charged violence, authorities and reports said.

The clashes in the southern town of Rosarno, which erupted Thursday during a protest by mainly African farm labourers, had injured 18 policemen and 19 foreigners in two days, authorities in Reggio Calabria province said.

Around 100 locals armed with batons and metal bars, and some carrying clubs and cans of petrol, had meanwhile set up a barricade late Friday near a place where many immigrants meet, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

Nine busses with police escorts later evacuated around 250 immigrants in the early hours of Saturday as locals applauded.

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 shot in the legs with hunting shotguns and five more were deliberately run over by vehicles driven by locals, they said. They were lightly hurt.

Police arrested the occupants of one of the vehicles, ANSA said, quoting investigators.

Police reinforcements had been sent to the area, said police chief Antonio Manganelli, as Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called for "an immediate end to the violence".

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 an air rifle, 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.

While 250 immigrants were evacuated early on Saturday to an emergency shelter located at Crotone, some 170 kilometres (105 miles) away, some 500 were still holed up on another building in the town, according to ANSA.

Police were staying in the town to ensure the immigrants don't return and residents don't burn down any buildings.

Earlier Friday the UN refugee agency's spokeswoman in Italy Laura Boldrini told AFP the body feared an "immigrant hunt" in Rosarno.

A team from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was to visit the area on Saturday, she said.

Boldrini said authorities must find those responsible for the air-gun shooting of the immigrants, who included political refugees and asylum seekers.

She said there should be immediate dialogue including about the "inhuman conditions in which these workers are living: the unhealthy cabins without water, without hygiene".

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".

According to Italy's main trade union CGIL, about 50,000 immigrant workers in Italy live in poor conditions similar to those in Rosarno.

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".

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