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Riot police act on anti-migrant protest

Right-wing extremists accused of stoking residents' fears

Riot police moved in today to prevent residents of a neighbourhood on Rome's outskirts from attacking refugees living at a holding centre.

The working-class neighbourhood of Tor Sapienza has seen several days and nights of violence against refugees by residents who blame foreigners for various crimes.

Residents claim not to be racist, insisting that they are fed up with years of neglect by government authorities.

They blame the government for letting Roma, migrants and asylum-seekers settle in Rome's peripheries without providing adequate services.

Officials at the Smile centre said that unaccompanied minors living there - mostly 16 and 17-year-olds from Egypt and Bangladesh - were being moved to another facility in the city for their own security after another clash broke out yesterday.

"We are scared. We are trying to find a compromise with the residents," said Smile centre official Francesco Amato.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees condemned the anti-migrant violence, insisting that refugees and unaccompanied minors fleeing conflict deserve protection, respect and help to integrate rather than "unacceptable" acts of violence and intolerance.

It blamed extremists who it said were capitalising on residents' fears to fuel conflict.

Italian commentators said that at least some of the perpetrators were believed to be members of far-right groups, since there have been chants of "Il Duce" in a reference to late fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Italy partially handed over its sea rescue operation for refugees earlier this month to the European Union after coming under pressure domestically to end the costly operation.

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