Italy: Interior minister vows to bolster security

Rome, 16 May (AKI) - Italy's new conservative interior minister Roberto Maroni said on Friday the country needs "firm measures" to tackle the "security emergency" caused by illegal immigration.

"The country demands immediate and effective answers form all political forces, working together to resolve the problems afflicting our communities," said Maroni (photo), who belongs to the anti-immigrant Northern League party.

"Firm measures" are needed to renew police trust and prevent people taking matters into their own hands, Maroni said. He pledged to bolster the resources available for Italy's police and security services.

Earlier this week, people in a low-income suburb of the southern city of Naples set fire to a Roma Gypsy camp, forcing them to flee, after a report that a teenage Roma girl allegedly tried to kidnap an Italian baby.

"It is time to intervene with force to prevent anger taking over... and to avoid episodes of the unjustifiable violence that we saw in Naples," Maroni stated.

Maroni defended the arrests announced on Thursday of nearly 400 people, most of whom are suspected to be illegal immigrants, many of whom have already been deported.

The operation signals the new conservative government's intention to keep its election promise to crack down on illegal immigrants. Many Italians hold them responsible for numerous crimes.

"We intend to firmly tackle with orderliness and rigour the European Union's internal and external migrations to ensure peaceful coexistence, today and tomorrow, of all peoples," Maroni said.

Romanians are currently the largest immigrant group, and many Roma Gypsies have Romanian nationality.

But Maroni on Thursday sought to reassure his Romanian counterpart that Italy was not unfairly discriminating against the Romanian community.

"There is not problem with the Romanian community, he said, adding that the government would focus on "those who commit crimes, regardless of their citizenship."

The government is due next week to unveil a new series of security measures. These include making illegal immigration a crime, and replacing single police officers with teams of security officials - including soldiers - to patrol the streets, according to Italian newspaper reports.


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