Hundreds of asylum-seekers clashed with riot police near an immigrant centre in the southern Italian city of Bari yesterday in a protest to demand refugee status that left dozens lightly injured.
Protesters hurled rocks and metal bars at police lines, set off fires and trashed the facility on the outskirts of Bari. Police responded with tear gas and live rounds fired into the air and 30 protesters were arrested.
The rioters blocked a main road and railway for several hours, disrupting regional train services and car traffic. A passing bus was also wrecked.
Local officials later intervened and persuaded the protesters to stand down after the authorities undertook to respond to their requests by next Wednesday.
The asylum-seekers returned to the facility, Italian news media reported.
“Those found to be responsible for these actions should be punished,” junior interior minister Alfredo Mantovano told reporters.
Fabio Rizzi, a senator for the anti-immigration Northern League party, a member of the ruling coalition, said: “The attack on law enforcement by North African immigrants in Bari cannot be written off simply as a protest.”
“We ask prosecutors to investigate fully and begin deportations,” he said.
But Rosa Calipari, a senator from the centre-left opposition Democratic Party, said: “The government should review its policies and adopt measures that are more reasonable and more respectful of human rights.”
“Holding innocent people in a prison is intolerable,” she said.
Clashes also broke out Monday in Isola Isola Cap Rizzuto in the southern region of Calabria where 30 asylum seekers had gathered outside an immigrant centre and blocked a main road. A policeman was slightly injured in the scuffle and two protestors were arrested.
Yesterday’s protests were the latest in a series of riots at refugee centres in Italy filled with African migrant workers fleeing Libya in recent weeks.
Eight police officers were injured overnight on Saturday in a riot by detainees at a centre outside Rome, who burned mattresses and threw bottles.
There were similar scenes last week at a refugee centre in Sicily in which 300 asylum-seekers blocked a road and set off fires in the facility.