Italian police dismantle Roma camps

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Italian police said on Tuesday they had evacuated and dismantled a Roma camp near the northern city of Milan as demolitions and transfers into "legal" camps were also under way in Rome.

"There weren't any tensions, people left without creating any problems," a spokesman for Milan's police told AFP after the camp was demolished.

The camp, set on private property in the outskirts of Milan, housed about 250 Roma in 64 barracks and 35 tents.

Local officials in Milan said they had offered to host the Roma in temporary housing, but only two dozen women and children accepted the offer.

Riccardo De Corato, the right-wing deputy mayor of Milan, said 315 settlements had been dismantled since 2007 in the city.

The crackdown has allowed authorities to "contain the influx of Roma whose status is illegal," bringing their number down from 10,000 in 2007 to 1,200 now, De Corato said.

Police in Rome also said they had begun demolishing small, illegal Roma settlements in the outskirts of the city and that operations would continue throughout this week.

Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno on Monday said police would tear down the 200 settlements at a rhythm of three or four each week and transfer inhabitants to the 10 official camps that are overseen by local authorities.

Alemanno said he would accelerate the demolition and evacuation of illegal camps after a three-year-old Romanian died in a fire in a camp near Rome in August.

After meeting with French Immigration Minister Eric Besson in Paris on Monday, Alemanno said Rome could host a maximum of 6,000 nomads in about 10 "legal" camps, compared to the 7,100 currently living in the city.

Non-governmental organisations say there are more than 14,000 Roma living in Rome.

© 2010 AFP

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