[JURIST] Police in the southern Italian town of Rosarno began evacuating hundreds of African immigrants Saturday, following three days of violence that began Thursday when a group of immigrants was attacked while returning from the farms where they worked. The attack sparked rioting [NYT report] among the immigrant population and resulted in property damage as well as injuries to more than 50 immigrants and police officers. The evacuated immigrants were sent to detention centers around Italy and face deportation if they lack regular residence permits [Reuters report]. Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni [official profile, in Italian] praised the police response in returning order to the area. A spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration in Italy [advocacy website] indicated that the events had pulled the issue of illegal immigration into the forefront.
Illegal immigration is a growing problem [BBC report] in Italy, where about 36,000 illegal immigrants arrived by boat in 2008. In July, Italy's Senate passed a law [JURIST report] making illegal immigration a crime. Italy's Chamber of Deputies approved the bill [JURIST report] in May. The law has been opposed by both the Catholic Church and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website]. In November 2008, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] about Italy's treatment of migrants and asylum seekers.