Anger at EU immigrants explodes after woman's brutal death
Richard Owen in Rome and David Charter in Brussels
From The Times
November 2, 2007
The brutal murder of a woman allegedly by a homeless immigrant as she returned home from shopping has brought to a head the simmering anger in Italy over the arrival of tens of thousands of impoverished Romanians.
Giovanna Reggiani, 47, the wife of a naval captain, died last night after being raped, beaten and thrown into a drainage ditch as she walked home in the dark from a railway station in a suburb of Rome. Her assailant had smashed her face into an unrecognisable pulp with a stone before leaving her for dead, police said.
Nicolae Romulus Mailat, 24, who came to Italy from Transylvania four months ago, was arrested at an immigrant bivouac of makeshift shacks on the Tiber embankment near the station at Tor di Quinto. Police were alerted by a Romanian woman who saw Mr Mailat returning to his shack covered in blood. She flagged down a bus and asked the driver to call police. Mr Mailat admitted robbing Ms Reggiani but denied raping her, police said.
The horrific attack has appalled Italians, who blame Romanian immigrants for a wave of crime in the biggest cities since January, when Romania joined the European Union, and now threatens to drive a wedge between two nations that have a long history of cultural ties.
Romano Prodi, the Italian Prime Minister, telephoned Calin Popescu Tariceanu, the Romanian Prime Minister, yesterday to demand urgent action to prevent criminals from crossing the border. On Wednesday Mr Prodi chaired a Cabinet meeting that approved a measure allowing police chiefs to expel EUcitizens who posed a threat to public security, as well as immigrants from outside the EU.
The measure, which would appear to contravene EU legislation on the free movement of people from member states, was due to be debated in Parliament within 60 days. Mr Prodi said yesterday that it would be imposed immediately by decree. He said: These acts must not be repeated. We are not acting out of rage but we are determined to keep a high level of security for our citizens.
The furious reaction to the attack on Mrs Reggiani has exposed the anger felt by many Italians at what they perceive to be the inability of authorities to deal with a sharp rise in burglaries and assaults involving migrants from Eastern Europe, particularly Romania. In a front-page editorial Il Messaggero, the Rome daily, said Our anger, frustration, fear and grief cannot be underestimated. This atrocious and vicious attack goes beyond our darkest imaginings, and is the direct consequence of excessive tolerance. We have blindly accepted anyone who wanted to come to Italy. We should have reacted much earlier.
Corriere della Sera said that Romanians had replaced Moroccans and Albanians as Italians No 1 nightmare. The difference is that Romanians are now Europeans like us.
Walter Veltroni, the Mayor of Rome, said that Italy should have followed the example of Britain and other EU countries in imposing immigration limits for new EU members.
Mr Veltroni said that before Romanias EU accession Rome had been one of the safest cities in Europe. These are not immigrants who came here to live, but criminal types, he said. Mr Veltroni said 75 per cent of street crimes in Rome so far this year had been committed by Romanians, and there was a risk of xenophobia.
Despite fears that Romanians would flood into Britain after their country joined the EU, most have headed for Southern Europe, especially Italy, because of affinities of language and culture. Cristian David, the Romanian Interior Minister, called on his compatriots to help the Italian authorities combat crimes committed by our fellow nationals. He said that the majority of Romanians were honest, and a criminal minority should not be allowed to damage the image of Romania as a whole.
In the past 18 months Romanians have been responsible for 76 murders, more than 300 rapes and 2,000 robberies in Italy, according to police statistics. Nearly 400 Romanians have been charged with kidnappings, mostly involving prostitution, and 6,000 with receiving stolen goods.
Concern that Bulgaria and Romania were let into the EU too soon means that most Balkan countries will have to wait at least a decade before they can join, officials in Brussels said yesterday. The slow pace of judicial reform in Bucharest and Sofia created a backlash against rapid membership.
A progress report on EU applicants will paint a damning picture of political and judicial corruption, The Times understands. The draft report, due to be published on Tuesday, covers the three official candidate countries Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia as well as the potential applicants Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo.
2 million Romanians live abroad, 10 per cent of the countrys population
1 in 2 of those is in Italy or Spain
114 monthly minimum wage in Romania, a tenth of that in the UK
Sources: Eurostat, Euromonitor
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