Italians living in one of Rome’s most prestigious suburbs and villages carried out a furious anti-immigrant protest on Friday, which later turned into a sit-in and lit mattresses on fire as a message to authorities to stop housing migrants.
Authorities plan to accommodate 101 immigrants in empty apartments in the village, however, residents were deeply discomforted by the decision, and broke into some of the buildings, removing the beds and mattresses, and torched them.
"We aren't going home until they leave... this is an invasion," they were quoted as having written on their banners.
At least 80,000 migrants are being hosted in Italy, consisting mostly of those from the Middle East and Africa who have fled war, persecution and starvation, and washed up on Italian shores via the Mediterranean.
A large percentage of the migrants are Syrians fleeing civil war.
Some were complaining about the “Africanisation” of their land, including President of Italy’s Veneto region and member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, Luca Zaia, who told national television that he agreed with the protesters.
"This is a declaration of war for those who don't understand what it means to put [migrants] alongside families with young children," he said.
A similar protest took place in Casale San Nicola, in the north of Rome, in which almost a hundred locals protested the arrival of the migrants.
“You can’t bring them here” and “We are afraid for our daughters” they cried out as they blocked a migrant bus.
Rome condemned the protests that were mostly organised by far-right groups, and asserted that locations for the migrants were chosen very carefully, in order to distribute the influx of migrants in a balanced manner.
However prefect of Treviso, Maria Augusta Marrosu said “They are staying, because they don’t have the choice.”
As a response to Marrosu’s statements, protesters sprayed graffiti on a building in the region saying: “Prefect Marrosu, take them home.”
Some protesters reacted violently as migrants were being escorted to their reception centre, and clashes took place between police and the protesters, resulting in the arrest of two protesters after 14 police officers were injured, some slightly.
Sicily is currently accommodating approximately 22 percent of migrants, while Lombardy, Italy’s wealthiest, is hosting 9 percent of the migrants, and Veneto about 4 percent. Most of these regions are in the north of the country.
Meanwhile, 2,700 migrants were rescued this week from 13 different boats near Libya by Italian coast guard.
The increase in migrants daring to risk their lives to sail across the Mediterranean in rickety boats belonging to human traffickers, many of whom abandon the migrants in the middle of the sea, is largely due to the recent increase in conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.
Italy, Malta and Greece in particular have been the hardest hit by the sudden influx of migrants to the continent in recent years, and have called on richer central and northern European countries for more support in dealing with the crisis.
Last month, European Union countries agreed to redistribute 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum-seekers already present in Europe to help take the load off Italy and Greece.