While government officials had an obligation to find a safe and dignified alternative for housing some 800 refugees squatting in an abandoned building in the centre of Rome, the way police went about it led to violence, said Rome’s Caritas agency.
Police evicted hundreds of refugees from the building on 19th August. About 100 people, mostly Eritreans and Ethiopians with official refugee status, had been camping in a public square outside the building since then.
When police went back on 24th August to clear the square near Rome’s main train station, violence erupted. Police said they were forced to use water cannons after the refugees started throwing things at them and hitting them with sticks.
Caritas, the Rome diocese’s official charitable organisation, said everyone knew that something needed to be done about the building, which had been occupied by the refugees since 2013. Living conditions inside were dangerous and unhygienic, Caritas said.
But ‘the way in which this happened, without any planning and acting as if it was an emergency, could do nothing other than lead to the escalation we saw this morning,’ the Caritas statement said.
Picture: Italian police use a water cannon on 24th August as they clash with protesting refugees who had been forcibly removed from a building where they had been living in Rome. (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters).