Hundreds of African immigrants have been evacuated from the Calabrian town of Rosarno following violent clashes with the local population. The violence highlights existing tension and resentment towards illegal immigrants in Italy.
Busloads of African immigrants were seen leaving the Calabrian town of Rosarno Saturday. Large numbers of Italian police were deployed throughout the southern Italian town as more than 900 immigrants evacuated after residents continued sporadic violent attacks against African farm workers.
Simon is from Ghana. He arrived five years ago, after a long journey that took him first to Libya and then by boat to Italy. He has been picking oranges and tangerines for a small wage, living in very difficult conditions. He says Italians are racists.
"They are treating us bad, even their dogs, they love their dogs past blacks. But why we are living like that, we don't have any place to go and if we don't work with them, you don't get money to feed yourself, even to pay house rent, light bill, water bill, you don't have a place to stay and we are human beings, we have to find a place to stay like them because we are not animals," said Simon.
The violence erupted late Thursday, when hundreds of angry African farm workers demonstrated after some of them were shot at with air rifles. The immigrants reacted by setting fire to cars and garbage dumpsters, smashing shop windows and terrifying residents. More than 60 people were injured in the clashes.
Father Carmelo Ascone has been the parish priest in Rosarno for the past 25 years.
"The people here now feel offended and angry," he said. "They have now turned to using violence to retaliate against the immigrants because they feel they have always been welcoming towards immigrants, helping them out."
As special buses with African immigrants continued to leave town, locals cheered and applauded. Simon and others say there is no future for them in this country.
"Yes we are now leaving, not only Rosarno, Italy, Italy," said an immigrant. "Everywhere in Italy, every city in Italy, whether Rome, Milano, for blacks it's no good."
For the time being, the African immigrants, most with no legal papers to stay in the country, were being taken to holding centers in other southern Italian cities. Italian authorities have said that even if they arrived in the country illegally, the immigrants would not be arrested. But their fate remained unclear.