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Italy Addresses Garbage Crisis, Tightens Immigration Law


Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's cabinet took steps to deal with the growing garbage crisis in Naples and approved a package of measures to combat illegal immigration and crime. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

When he won the elections last month, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had pledged that his first cabinet meeting would be held in the southern Italian city of Naples which has been struggling to deal with a major trash emergency. He had also vowed to pass new measures to deal with crime in Italy and address the issue of illegal immigration.

True to his word, the prime minister on Wednesday moved his entire cabinet from Rome to Naples and approved a series of measures to deal with the garbage crisis, illegal immigration and security.

Mr. Berlusconi said that among the problems his government needed to face immediately is the one that appeared the most urgent was that of Naples. He added that his decision to hold his first cabinet meeting in the city was a way to underline symbolically the government's attention and commitment to resolve the problems of this beautiful city.

He said the dream is to see Naples blossom once again and have marvelous flowers replace the trash in the streets.

The prime minister on Wednesday appointed a veteran official, Guido Bertolaso, the head of Italy's civil defense department, to deal with the garbage emergency. He said he would deal with the trash problem exactly as if it were an emergency caused by a earthquake or volcano eruption.

Mr. Berlusconi said new landfills will be opened and the army will be called in to guard them, and pledged stiff punishment for anyone caught blocking garbage collection. He said a new incinerator, whose construction has been delayed, will be built as soon as possible.

Garbage has been piling in the streets of Naples since last December when all the available dumps were filled up.

The prime minister also addressed the problem of security, a major public concern in Italy.

Mr. Berlusconi said citizens have a fundamental right not to be afraid. As he put it, "the right not to be afraid is a right that a state worthy of the name must guarantee."

A package was also approved to combat crime and illegal immigration. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said it will now be easier to expel illegal immigrants, check the income of immigrants from the EU and crack down on abuse of the asylum system to enter Italy.

The interior minister said illegal immigration is now a crime punishable by a prison term. He said the measure will make it easier to expel immigrants who do not have legal papers to work in Italy.

Other security measures included tougher laws to deal with the mafia as well as for crimes against the elderly, women and the disabled.