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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 19:34 GMT
Italy crackdown on foreign crime
By Christian Fraser
BBC News, Rome

Italian police at crime scene
Italian police have been offered help by Romanian counterparts
The Italian government has given local authorities the power to expel European Union citizens who pose a threat to public security.

The move is in response to a sharp rise in crime - particularly violent crime - blamed by many on foreign nationals.

In the latest case, a Roman woman was found in a coma after reportedly being raped, beaten and left in a ditch.

The new powers are in force immediately but parliament must vote within 60 days for them to remain in effect.

For weeks now Prime Minister Romano Prodi and his cabinet have been looking at ways to deal with the problem.

There has been outcry over a series of crimes attributed to immigrants, mostly Romanian.

In the case of the 47-year-old Roman woman, her stolen handbag was found in the possession of a 25-year-old Romanian who has now been charged with attempted murder and robbery.

Romania's response

Since Romania's accession to the EU this year, the authorities say that over 1,000 Romanian immigrants have arrived in Italy each month.

Since June last year 76 murders have been committed by Romanians.

The mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, says that 75% of arrests for murder, rape and robbery in his city this year can be attributed to Romanians.

Mr Prodi believes Italy is not alone in facing this new wave of crime and he has called on Europe's home office ministers to meet and find a solution.

The Romanian prime minister has responded by sending police liaison officers to major Italian cities to help.

It remains to be seen what the reaction in Brussels will be to this new Italian legislation and whether it will stand the test of European law.

This week a UK high court judge refused the British government's request to expel the EU national who murdered head teacher Phillip Lawrence in 1995.

And he emphasised that his decision was mainly based on existing EU legislation.

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