World Bulletin / News Desk
Italy is set to issue new guidelines on refugee evictions after the UN criticised the ousting of hundreds of people from a Rome building last week, local media reported Saturday.
On the morning of August 19, police rushed into the building near Rome's Termini main train station, giving the 800 people inside a mere 15 minutes to vacate.
The building had been peacefully occupied since 2013 by mainly refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea and Ethiopia, some in the country for as long as 15 years.
"I left everything behind," a 30-year-old refugee told AFP on condition of anonymity.
On Thursday, authorities returned to evict the remaining people, using water canons and batons to forcibly remove the hundred or so refugees still on the premises.
The violence quickly escalated with the squatters responding by throwing gas canisters and rocks at police. The violence "on both sides" was later condemned by top cardinal Pietro Parolin.
The images of violence went viral in Italy, with one video in particular of a police official making disparaging remarks sparking outrage.
The video showed the official saying: "Those people have to disappear, too bad for them. If they throw something, break their arm".
While opposition parties on the extreme right welcomed the evictions, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) voiced "grave concern".
UNHCR urged Italian authorities to "find an immediate solution for the people currently sleeping under the stars and ensure adequate integration measures for those with a right to international protection".
According to local reports, the interior ministry will propose new guidelines outlining that any future refugee expulsions will have to include relocation solutions for the most vulnerable.
But relocating the Rome refugees has proved problematic.
Italian authorities have proposed to relocate the refugees to housing about 75 kilometres (50 miles) from Rome, which would delay enrolment for children already registered in Roman schools.
And the city's leftist mayor has opposed the relocation, saying he has already welcomed 40 asylum seekers in a town of 3,100 people.
Several hundred people, mainly leftists and migrants, demonstrated in Rome Saturday against the evictions.
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