Italian authorities have expelled Romanians they deem dangerous and torn down a Roma and Sinti camp in the wake of the killing of an Italian naval officer's wife. Some fear an increase of racist violence.
An Italian police officer stands by homeless people forced out of their makeshift houses on the Tiber river banks
Italian officials raised fears of an anti-Romanian "vendetta" on Saturday, Nov. 3, following apparent reprisal attacks the day before over the death of a woman allegedly killed by a Romanian.
"Unfortunately, it's what we fear," Interior Minister Giuliano Amato told La Repubblica daily of Friday's attacks against three Romanians by masked men armed with sticks.
"We must prevent this terrible tiger that is xenophobic hatred, the racist beast, from leaving its cage," Amato said.
Meanwhile, Rome marked a day of mourning Saturday for Giovanna Reggiani, a 47-year-old naval officer's wife who was allegedly attacked and found comatose in a ditch outside Rome. She later died in a hospital.
Several hundred people attended her funeral Saturday, including Amato and Rome's Mayor Walter Veltroni.
A 24-year-old Romanian youth was arrested Tuesday and stands accused of being Reggiani's assailant, which he denies. Her assault prompted an emergency decree Wednesday to facilitate expulsions of EU citizens considered a security threat.
An Italian police officer destroys makeshift houses on the Tiber river banks
Italians have fumed for years over petty crimes by poor immigrants from Romania and elsewhere.
After the attack on Reggiani, Prodi issued a decree opening the way for prefects to expel European Union citizens who were considered dangerous. The targets of the decree have so far been immigrants from Romania, which joined the bloc this year, and have the same
right as other EU citizens to travel freely across borders.
"Nobody imagined having to face 500,000 poor souls that in one year have left Romania for Italy," Interior Minister Giuliano Amato said.
A judge must sign off on an expulsion order but no criminal history is necessary and nor is a trial, according to the interior ministry.
Milan's Prefect Gianvalerio Lombardi expelled the first four Romanians on Friday. Four new expulsion orders were signed on Saturday, according to Italy's ANSA news agency. Authorities in northern Turin, Genoa, Val d'Aosta and Lecce in southern Italy also followed suit Saturday, the news agency reported.
All the decrees must be approved by judges to take effect and they only last three years. Those expelled have a month to leave the country.
Last year 15.4 percent of foreigners accused of murder, sexual violence and theft in Italy were Romanian, police say.
Concern over reprisals
The funeral of Giovanna Reggiani in Rome on Saturday
Friday's attack against the three Romanians at a supermarket parking lot by 10 masked men armed with sticks, knives and iron bars has raised concern of reprisals against ordinary members of the Romanian community, Italy's largest immigrant group.
Initial reports said four were targeted in the attack in a southern Roman suburb, near shantytowns where foreigners live in squalor.
The most seriously injured, Emil Marcu, 47, was in stable condition following an overnight operation, according to hospital sources quoted by ANSA. Witnesses told police the assailants, who fled the scene, were Italian.
Reaction to the assaults was swift, with Italian media linking the incident to Reggiani's death -- although the two events occurred some 20 kilometers (12 miles) apart -- and politicians of all stripes warning against reprisals against Romanians.
"We must avoid at all cost a spiral of vendettas to be established," said Fabrizio Cicchitto of the conservative Forza Italia party of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Rome Mayor Veltroni, recently crowned the new leader of Italy's center-left and the heir apparent to Prime Minister Romano Prodi, also urged people to "be inspired by the values of civil society, and not by vendetta."
Still, the attacks have sparked partisan sparring, with the left accusing the right of using the tragedy for their political ends and Berlusconi charging the leftist government of being lax on security.