Security


Italy: Immigrants fear backlash after brutal rape, says expert




Rome, 22 April(AKI) - A political backlash, which erupted in Italy after the rape and stabbing of an African student at the weekend, has driven immigrants from their homes, a leading sociologist said on Tuesday.

Isabella Clough-Marinaro, from the American University in Rome, says the attack on the 31-year-old student from Lesotho, allegedly by a Romanian immigrant, has provoked widespread fear in the community.

"Many Romanians have disappeared from their homes in the area near La Storta, presumably fearing that they will be attacked," Clough-Marinaro told Adnkronos International (AKI).

The student was attacked last Thursday night at the railway station of La Storta, on the outskirts of the capital Rome.

A 37-year-old Romanian immigrant living in an illegal camp has reportedly been charged with the crime.

"Vigilantes may well start attacking Romanians and other migrants," said Clough-Marinaro.

Clough-Marinaro, an expert in the Roma (gypsy) community some of whom come from Romania, said immigrants feared revenge attacks and government demolition of their homes.

"It is also likely that police will resume and intensify demolitions in camps and shantytowns," she said, referring to the illegal camps where some immigrants live.

Last year the Italian government passed a decree ordering the expulsion of European Union citizens deemed a threat to public safety after the murder of a woman, allegedly by a Romanian illegal immigrant in Rome.

The murder stoked tensions and anti-immigrant sentiment across the country.

In an apparent revenge attack, masked assailants stabbed and beat four Romanians outside a supermarket in the capital days after the murder in 2007.

"Roma are easy scapegoats for all crimes in this country," Clough-Marinaro told AKI.

Last week's attack has provoked a fierce debate about security in the Italian capital, ahead of the mayoral election due to take place this weekend.

Democratic Party candidate Francesco Rutelli, who was mayor of Rome between 1993 and 2001, is running against centre-right candidate Gianni Alemanno, who belongs to the People of Freedom coalition.

Rutelli sparked further debate on Tuesday when he said that women should be given security bracelets to protect them from violent attacks on the streets.

After he won the recent election, prime-minister elect Silvio Berlusconi said that Italy would close its borders to illegal immigrants and set up more camps to identify jobless foreign citizens forced into a life of crime.

Clough-Marinaro said that attacks could be prevented if the city could provide better lighting and policing of stations and peripheral areas, as well as low-cost housing for Rome's growing number of poor people.






 

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