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Paramilitary police officers patrol downtown Naples.

Italian Crime Clean-Up Inspires Xenophobic Violence

May 20, 2008 03:37 PM
by Anne Szustek
Italy is cracking down on urban shantytowns after campaign promises to cut crime. But some Naples residents have resorted to arson and murder to force out migrant groups.

30-Second Summary

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Police detained 400 illegal immigrants in what the government sees as a first step toward lowering crime. According to the Times of London, 118 of them are to be expelled from Italy for a variety of crimes including drug dealing, prostitution and robbery.

The paper continues, “In Naples local people have anticipated the new policy, taking the law into their own hands.” Shantytowns created by the Roma, also known as Gypsies, were torched by civilians in a series of raids that have left the camps a pile of smoking rubble.

The riots were instigated by the capture of a 17-year-old Roma woman who allegedly tried to snatch a six-year-old girl. Hundreds of families were sent packing post-haste, fleeing the scene with handcarts and small vehicles.

Italy has recently seen a marked trend toward nationalist politics. In April Gianni Alemanno won his bid for mayor of Rome on a campaign that profiled statistics that purported to show a link between immigration and rising crime rates.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was re-elected with heavy support from the Northern League, an anti-immigration political group. The deputy head of the Northern League, Robert Maroni, is the country’s interior minister and the chief of a task force charged with “the Roma problem.”

Italy is not the only country to bulldoze Roma shantytowns. The Fatih Municipality in Istanbul, Turkey, is bulldozing the Sulukule neighborhood, claiming that its buildings would not survive an earthquake. But critics see the project as a ploy by the Islamist-leaning government to eradicate the district’s legendary taverns.

Headline Links: Italy considers special group for Roma; Naples residents assault Roma

Background: Italy’s rightward shift

Audio: ‘Berlusconi, Northern League Notch Wins in Italy’

Related Topic: Istanbul’s eradication of Sulukule

Reference: Italy

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