Italy: Immigrants 'targeted' by police in Milan

Milan, 30 Sept. (AKI) - Immigrants in the northern Italian city of Milan are being targeted on public transport by police who are demanding their documents, a report by an Italian daily said on Wednesday. A report published by Italian daily La Repubblica said that the special police force - established in the year 2000 for the safety of passengers in buses and trams - is now focusing on activities to "stop and identify" immigrants.

"Guys, go find that one that's hidden behind the bushes and you will make me happy," a police superintendent is reported to have told officers.

He was referring to a 20 year-old young man from North Africa who freed himself from the officer and began running towards the bushes.

Transport officials travel on buses and trams asking travellers for their tickets, however, now one person is reportedly in charge of checking immigrants for their documents.

If the immigrant does not have his or her documents, he or she will be taken off the bus and placed in a "jail bus", which looks exactly like a normal public transport bus but with metal grates so the migrants cannot escape.

They are then taken to the police station to be identified and may be expelled from the country.

"This is a service which is carried out solely by this special taskforce and does not take away police officers from carrying out traffic-related duties," said Milan's deputy mayor Riccardo de Corato, quoted by La Repubblica.

La Repubblica claimed that only three of the ten migrants stopped by officials are in Italy legally.

The other seven are issued an expulsion order and one of them is arrested for not having left Italy after the order had been previously issued.

In July, Italy's upper house of parliament on Thursday voted into law a controversial security bill making illegal immigration a punishable offence.

The measures, especially the criminalisation of would-be immigrants, have drawn criticism from rights groups including Amnesty international, as well as Italy's centre-left opposition and the Catholic Church.

Italy's prime minister Silvio Berlusconi won elections in April 2008 on an anti-crime platform, vowing to curb illegal immigration which, according to surveys, many Italian associate with a growing security problem in their towns and cities.


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