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Italians and migrants march together against immigration policies in Rome

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By Emma Beswick  with Reuters
Italians and migrants march together against immigration policies in Rome

As many as 20,000 people marched in Rome on Saturday to protest against racism and the Italian government's stance on immigration.

They argued that Italy's populist government has been spreading "growing climate of hatred" since it came to power five months ago.

Demonstrators were angered by a contested security decree championed by Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League, which tightens immigration regulations, limits the right to asylum, and bolsters anti-terrorism and anti-mafia rules. 

The legislation was forced through the upper house by the government winning a confidence vote on Wednesday and the bill must now go to the lower chamber for approval.

The action was organised by left-wing, anti-racism and anti-fascist groups. Roma families that were recently evicted from camps joined the likes of students, migrants and refugees, as well as human-rights activists from across Italy.

Riace's pro-refugee — and recently suspended — mayor Domenico Lucano was among the demonstrators, denouncing what he described as a "fascist and racist drift" in Italy and Europe.

With Lucano as mayor, Riace made headlines for opening its doors to thousands of refugees, integrating them into society and revitalizing a dwindling rural population.

Accused of favouring illegal immigration, the mayor of the small Calabrian town was put under house arrest in October. Despite a court later revoking the decision, he is still banned from living in Riace.