New measures against a wave of sex attacks in Italy, which have been blamed on immigrants, appear to be straining relations between Rome and Bucharest.
The decree law toughens sentences and allows civilians to mount neighbourhood patrols. It also gives authorities new powers to detain and expel immigrants. The move was rushed through amid rising public anger over several rapes allegedly carried out by foreigners. Among the measures outlined by the Italian interior minister was the creation of groups of citizen volunteers to patrol urban areas. In recent weeks unregulated vigilantes have appeared in several towns. The government says these groups will now be regulated and led by local police. But the Romanian government fears law-abiding immigrants living in Italy could be targeted unfairly. “We want to overcome this abnormal situation through dialogue and cooperation with our Italian partners. Romanian and Italian relations are defined by the activities of 2,700 Italian companies in Romania and one million Romanian citizens in Italy, the vast majority of whom live and work honestly.” The government says the number of sex attacks is actually down on previous years, and that its drive to improve security is working. But many Italians are unconvinced, with recent rapes grabbing the headlines. Some politicians have even called for the chemical castration of sex offenders.