Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Saturday, 9 January 2010

Migrants evacuated from southern Italian town

Immigrant workers board a bus to be evacuated from Rosarno
There were reportedly cheers as the workers left

Italian authorities have evacuated hundreds of migrants from a southern town and brought in extra police after violent protests broke out.

Some 320 African migrants, many of whom work as fruit-pickers in Calabria, were taken by bus to an emergency centre.

Extra police were deployed after two days of riots, during which 37 people were injured and cars were set alight.

The violence broke out after two migrants were shot at with pellet guns by a group of local youths.

'Difficult situation'

Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni prompted a storm of criticism from the leftist opposition by suggesting that the violence was the result of not addressing the issue of illegal workers in the country.

A migrant worker exits the silo where he lives
Many of the migrant workers live in desperate conditions

"There's a difficult situation in Rosarno, like in other places, because for years illegal immigration - which feeds criminal activities - has been tolerated and nothing effective has ever been done about it," he said according to Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

Opposition leader Pierluigi Bersani said: "Maroni is passing the buck ... We have to go to the root of the problem: mafia, exploitation, xenophobia and racism."

Some 320 African migrants - mainly from Ghana and Nigeria - were taken by bus from the southern town of Rosarno to a reception centre at Crotone, some 170km (105 miles) away.

Local residents applauded as the eight buses carrying the migrant workers left the town, AFP reports.

Police said reinforcements had been called in at intersections and squares in the town to keep order on Saturday.

Many of the migrants, most of whom work as fruit-pickers in the region's citrus farms, live in difficult conditions - camped in abandoned factories and buildings with no running water or electricity, and paid as little as 20 euros ($30) per day.

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