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Italy to Step Up Fight Against Illegal Immigration

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told the upper house of parliament that recent violence between African agricultural migrants and local residents in the southern region of Calabria is evidence of the negative consequences of illegal immigration.

Addressing the upper house of the Italian parliament late Tuesday, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni praised the work of the security forces in the southern Calabrian town of Rosarno, where African farm workers rioted in the streets last week. The two days of violence erupted after a group of white local youths allegedly shot two immigrants with a pellet gun.

Maroni said the immediate reaction on the part of security officials from the start of the disorder ensured the violence did not degenerate into more serious incidents. In all, 21 migrants were injured in the clashes, with eight still hospitalized.

The interior minister said about 750 illegal immigrants, were transferred to holding centers in the southern cities of Crotone and Bari. He added that more than 300 with regular permits left Rosarno voluntarily with their own means to other destinations.

Maroni made clear the fight against illegal immigration would continue without let-up.

He said the illegal entry into Italian territory represents the basis for the marginalization and exploitation of foreigners and often becomes the reservoir for recruiting laborers by criminal organizations.

Maroni said 42,000 immigrants were repatriated in the past two years. He added that since an agreement was reached with Libya, arrivals by boat on the Italian southern coast have dropped by 90 percent.

He added arrivals are down from more than 30,000 to just more than 3,000, mainly thanks to the government's new 'push-back' policy to Libya.

Maroni also said the government plans to further intensify its fight against illegal labor in the agricultural sector as part of its plan to more effectively combat illegal immigration, black-market labor and every form of organized crime.