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Italy arrests hundreds in illegal immigrants swoop PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 16 May 2008

REUTERS, Rome - Italian police arrested hundreds of suspected illegal immigrants on Thursday in a sign of the new right-wing government's determination to clamp down.

Some of those held in the operation, which stretched from northern Italy to the Campania region around Naples, were ordered to be immediately expelled.

Silvio Berlusconi swept back to power for a third term as prime minister last week promising to get tough on illegal immigrants, who are blamed by many Italians for crime. His government is preparing new laws to screen immigrants.

In Rome, the police raided at least one makeshift camp of Roma people from Eastern Europe, who bear the brunt of widespread public concern about immigrant crime.

Television showed police loading some Roma men onto buses in Rome's biggest settlement for people known in Italy as "nomads".

Romania, a fellow EU member which has Europe's biggest Roma population, has warned Italy against an outbreak of "xenophobia" against its people, though Berlusconi's government has reassured Bucharest that Romanians are not being targeted.

Illegal Roma camps in Naples had to be evacuated by police this week after local people, angry at an alleged baby-snatching incident involving a 17-year-old Roma girl, set fire to their shacks repeatedly during the night. Nobody was injured.

Italy's new interior minister, Roberto Maroni from the anti-immigrant Northern League party, is rushing out emergency legislation that could bring back passport checks on Italy's European Union borders, despite its membership of the Schengen passport-free zone.

He also wants to make illegal immigration a jailable offense and speed up the deportation process.

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