The authorities in Rome say they are cracking down on illegal immigrants
The authorities in Rome have begun dismantling illegal camps amid an outcry over three rapes last weekend that have been blamed on immigrants.
Mayor Gianni Alemanno supervised the demolition of about 30 camps, home to many Roma, or Gypsies, from Romania.
A 14-year-old girl was raped in a park in the capital on Saturday, allegedly by two men from Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, a government minister has said surgical castration might be the best option for those who raped minors.
"In some cases, I don't believe that rehabilitation is possible," Roberto Calderoli, the minister without portfolio for legislative simplification, told the newspaper La Stampa.
"I think that chemical castration may be insufficient and that surgical castration is the only option left," he added. "Society has to protect itself."
The call by Mr Calderoli, a leading member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, comes as the government prepares new measures aimed at dealing with both crime and illegal immigrants.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, his party colleague, said it would push through an emergency decree this week speeding up legislation aimed at creating "groups of unnamed citizens" in high-risk areas, who would "assist the police by bringing to their attention events which might be damaging to urban security".
The decree would also ban magistrates from releasing into house arrest those accused of crimes involving sexual violence, he said.
Critics say the measures could effectively legitimise vigilantism and xenophobia.
The Vatican has warned against anything that turns innocent foreigners into convenient scapegoats.
Police say a mob of around 20 masked men beat up four Romanians outside a kebab restaurant in Rome on Sunday in an apparent vigilante attack.
Investigators believe the violence is a response to a series of sex attacks in recent weeks, including the rape of the girl in Rome's Caffarella Park on Saturday.
Also at the weekend, a 21-year-old Bolivian woman was raped in Milan by a man described as North African, while in Bologna, a Tunisian who had just been released from prison was re-arrested for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl.
While visiting Caffarella Park on Sunday, Rome's mayor said rapists had to know they would face "a definitive sentence" and that all illegal gypsy camps in the city would be dismantled.
A bill going through parliament includes a provision calling for a census of homeless people to be entered into a database held by the interior ministry. Doctors would also be allowed to report illegal immigrants to the authorities, something which is currently banned.