Police in Rome have intervened as angry clashes erupted between local residents and refugees living in the working class neighbourhood of Tor Sapienza.
Some locals had chased a group of north African refugees back to their temporary lodgings after they left to buy coffee.
One angry resident accused refugees of robbery and violence.
“We have to face our own criminality and now we have to face it coming from abroad, that’s it,” fumed local resident Patrizia. “Violence, robberies, during the day, they beat up our people getting off the bus.”
Tor Sapienza refugee centre aid worker, Francesca Amato, insisted that the problem was not to do with racism, but with social deprivation.
Carlotta Sami, spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), condemned the violence: “Leaders are turning [a blind] eye, and are not willing to really look into the situation, and to implement integration projects that [could] really help the refugees, and the local population that have to host refugees.”
She also blamed poor conditions in the neighbourhood for the conflict.
Officials at the “Smile” refugee centre said unaccompanied minors living at the centre – mostly aged 16 and 17 from Egypt and Bangladesh – were being moved to another centre in Rome for their own security.
Italian commentators say at least some of the perpetrators of the attacks on refugees are believed to be members of far-right groups, citing reports of chants of “Il Duce” in a reference to Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.