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Protests in Rome lead to clashes, arrests

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Demonstrators clash with policemen during a protest against austerity measures in downtown Rome April 12, 2014.
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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Two people were arrested and 15 policemen were injured on Friday when far-right activists and local residents held a protest over a new centre for asylum-seekers outside Rome.

The protesters tried to block the access road to the reception centre as the first group of 20 migrants arrived by coach and allegedly hurled stones at the police and set fire to bales of hay along the roadside.

The centre’s first residents are asylum-seekers from Bangladesh, Somalia and Etritrea.

Members of the neo-fascist organization Casa Pound Italia on Friday joined the protest against the centre by neighbourhood activists in Casale San Nicola, on the northern outskirts of Rome.

The local activists have been camping outside a former school since May 7 to protest against plans to turn it into a reception centre for about 100 migrants.

“We are not going to move from here. Casale San Nicola must remain in Italian hands. We will defend to the end,” said a deputy leader of the group, Andrea Antonini.

After police forced their way through the blockade, the activists vowed to continue their protest “in a legal and wholly peaceful manner”.

An investigation is due to be opened into Friday’s clashes, sources said.

Rome Prefect Franco Gabrielli — a top interior ministry official who authorised the opening of the migrant centre — said there will be no change of plan. “We will not take any steps back,” Gabrielli said.

Local authorities announced that 101 asylum-seekers being accommodated in an apartment complex in Quinto di Treviso would on Friday be rehoused in a disused military barracks after protests this week by residents in the small town 30 km north of Venice.

“No more refugees will be arriving,” the surrounding Veneto region’s Governor Luca Zaia announced.

Between Wednesday night and Thursday, locals stole furniture from apartments reserved for migrants and set fire to it. Forza Nuova, another neo-Fascist organisation, staged a sit-in in their support.

Italy currently hosts 93,700 refugees, about one per 1,000 inhabitant, against more than 200,000 each for Germany and France, 117,000 for Britain and 142,000 for Sweden, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, which has condemned recent acts of intolerance.

In Italy, where the economy remains persistently weak, anti-migrant sentiment is on the rise amid a surge in the number of asylum seekers arriving in the country, most of whom are fleeing conflict and persecution in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

(With inputs from IANS)

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Child Vaccination Mandate Still Under The Confusion Reigns in Italy

According to a 2010 survey of 27 EU states, plus Norway and Iceland, 15 countries do not have any mandatory vaccinations; the other 14 have at least one

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A doctor injects vaccine into a patient's arm, in Rome, Italy, Feb. 23, 2018.
A doctor injects vaccine into a patient's arm, in Rome, Italy, Feb. 23, 2018. (VOA)

Italians are divided between those who think parents should have the right to decide whether to vaccinate their children and those who feel immunization programs must be decided by the government, which they believe has better access to information. Vaccine regulations differ widely across Europe, and the current situation in Italy is in limbo.

Italians enrolling their children in state-run nursery schools currently are uncertain if they need to provide evidence their children have had 10 vaccinations required by a law that came into effect in March. A week ago, the upper house of parliament voted through an amendment to remove that obligation. But to become law, it must also be approved by the lower house.

Parents have been told that for the time being they can simply provide a self-signed declaration that their children have been vaccinated. Many remain unclear whether their children will be allowed to go to school if they fail to provide a declaration or other evidence of the vaccinations.

A surge of more than 5,000 measles cases last year – the second largest outbreak in Europe – led the government run then by the Democratic Party to pass a bill requiring mandatory vaccinations. However, in the run-up to general elections this year, the 5-Star Movement led by Luigi Di Maio and the League led by Matteo Salvini said they would do away with the law. Now in power, they appear to be keeping their promise

Speaking at a recent political rally near Florence, Salvini admitted he had vaccinated his own children and said that parents who have the best interests of their children at heart should be able to make that choice. He added that 10 vaccines are simply too many for some children and it is unthinkable that Italian children may not be able to enroll in school because they have not been vaccinated.

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Confusion Reigns in Italy Over Child Vaccination Mandate. VOA

Salvini said a state that requires 10 vaccines must also give parents the certainty that nothing will happen to their children through pre-vaccine tests, which today do not exist. There are 15 European countries, he added, that do not even have a single mandatory vaccine. Noting that Italy now has the most compulsory vaccinations of any country in Europe, Salvini expressed the concern that some multinational or pharmaceutical company may have chosen Italian children as a testing ground.

Italy’s health minister, Giulia Grillo, a doctor and a member of the 5-Star Movement, has made clear the government believes the right balance must be struck between the right to education and the right to health.

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Grillo said the 5-Star Movement is not opposed to vaccines and recognizes their importance and usefulness. She added that citizens need to be informed properly about vaccinations and that the National Health Service must provide support to parents and children before and after they are inoculated.

According to a 2010 survey of 27 EU states, plus Norway and Iceland, 15 countries do not have any mandatory vaccinations; the other 14 have at least one. The most common mandatory vaccine is against polio, followed by diphtheria and tetanus. (VOA)