Last Update 10:13
Tuesday, 21 September 2021

UN voices concern over refugee evictions in Rome

AFP , Sunday 20 Aug 2017
File Photo: Migrants sitting in a Rome street outside a former migrant centre (AFP)

The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) on Sunday voiced "grave concern" over the eviction of 800 people from a Rome building squatted mainly by asylum seekers and refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The agency said 200 of those expelled from the building on Saturday had had to sleep on the streets, in a city already home to hundreds of homeless refugees from persecution and war, including many children.

"UNHCR hopes local and national authorities can find an immediate solution for the people currently sleeping under the stars and ensure adequate integration measures for those with a right to international protection," the organisation's Italy branch said in a statement.

The building, located near Rome's Termini main train station, had been occupied peacefully since 2013.

Commentators interpreted the unexpected eviction -- carried out when Rome is virtually deserted at the height of the holiday season -- as a sign of hardening attitudes in Italy towards asylum seekers.

More than 600,000 people from Africa, Asia and the Middle East have arrived in the country since 2014.

As it has become harder for such migrants to reach other European countries, Italy's reception facilities have come under strain and the centre-left government, facing elections next year, is under pressure on the issue.

Interior Minister Marco Minniti, who has ultimate responsibility for Saturday's eviction, has recently overseen a series of controversial moves aimed at ending the crisis.

These include steps to curb the activity of charity and other privately-funded boats rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean and Italian naval support for Libyan coastguard efforts to intercept boats headed for Europe.

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