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)