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Hundreds of Refugees, Roma Homeless in Italian Eviction Drive

FILE - Migrants walk in a camp set by the Baobab aid group in Rome, Italy, July 12, 2018.

Hundreds of migrants and Roma have been left homeless following two days of evictions in Italy, as its interior minister said on Wednesday that he was restoring order to the country.

Volunteers running the Baobab camp in Rome said that police forcibly evicted about 150 refugees and undocumented migrants on Tuesday and bulldozed their makeshift shelters, with the majority having nowhere else to sleep.

"Expelling the too-great number of illegal immigrants who bring war to us in Italy is my duty," right-wing Matteo Salvini, who is also Italy's deputy prime minister, said on Twitter on Wednesday.

"Evictions, they are not just happening in Rome and they are not just Baobab," he said in another tweet, adding that "a municipal building illegally occupied by 150 Roma was liberated" in the southern city of Foggia on Wednesday morning.

"We're bringing back legality, security, and order throughout Italy. From words to actions."

Salvini, head of the far-right League, has been making waves since coming to power in a coalition government in June, turning away humanitarian ships carrying migrants in the Mediterranean and promising to stop Italy being "Europe's refugee camp."

More than 600,000 migrants have arrived on Italy's shores from North Africa since 2014 and Salvini has made curbing immigration a clarion call of his party.

Long before migration became a European humanitarian and political crisis, Salving was also taking aim at Italy's 26,000 Roma, calling for their camps to be bulldozed because he said they were hotbeds of crime.

Rome's city authorities cleared some 450 people out of an official Roma camp in June, weeks after Salving said the Roma should be counted and, if they were foreign, expelled.


Nazaro Amr Uddin, an Afghan refugee who said he had been living in the Baobab camp for three months and had permission to live in Italy until 2022, said he was woken by police on Tuesday morning and sent to a tribunal to confirm his residency status.

He said police blocked him from re-entering the camp in the afternoon to collect his blankets and shoes.

"I don't know where I'm going to go to tonight," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from outside the dismantled camp.

"I'm afraid someone will steal my bag while I sleep. I'm so tired. Life is so hard here."

A spokesman for Rome city council, Genaro Barbieri, said the authority had offered alternative accommodation to everyone in Baobab last week.

"Some people have rejected the proposals, and others left the area of their own accord," he said in emailed comments.

It is the 22nd time that police have evacuated the volunteer-run camp since it was set up in 2015, at the height of Europe's migrant crisis.

It serves as a stopgap for migrants who have been released from government-run reception centers and have nowhere to go, as well as others passing through Rome end route elsewhere.

Myriam El Meyer, a Baobab volunteer, said it was the first time police had completely closed off the site.

"We're waiting outside to see whether they can provide some emergency accommodation for some of the people who are left, but I honestly have no idea," she said. "We've been in talks with the council for three years now and very little has changed."