Calabrians are not the right people to push around — unlike the British

Residents of an Italian town have shot at immigrants, beaten them with iron bars and run over them, injuring nine including two seriously, in a second night of racially charged violence. The clashes in the southern town of Rosarno, which erupted on Thursday during a protest by mainly African farm labourers, had injured 18 policemen and 19 foreigners in two days, authorities in Reggio Calabria province said.

Around 100 locals armed with batons and metal bars, and some carrying clubs and cans of petrol, had meanwhile set up a barricade near a place where many immigrants meet, Italian news agency ANSA reported. Others had earlier occupied the town hall to demand immigrants be removed. In separate incidents, two immigrants were beaten and seriously wounded with iron bars. One of the wounded was admitted to hospital for brain surgery. Two other immigrants were shot in the legs with hunting shotguns and five more were deliberately run over by vehicles driven by locals. They were lightly hurt.

Police arrested the occupants of one of the vehicles, ANSA said, quoting investigators. Police reinforcements had been sent to the area as Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called for “an immediate end to the violence”.

Buses arrived last night to ferry out 150 immigrants, local journalist Mario Tosti told AFP.

The violence broke out on Thursday when hundreds of immigrants, most of them Africans employed illegally as farm labourers, demonstrated after some of them had been shot at with an air rifle, ANSA said. Demonstrators set fire to cars and smashed windscreens before police intervened, leading to a scuffle that left several of the demonstrators wounded. The disturbances continued on Friday with about 2000 immigrants holding a sit-in in the centre of Rosarno while Italian residents blocked roads and occupied the town hall.

Earlier Friday the UN refugee agency’s spokeswoman in Italy Laura Boldrini said the body feared an “immigrant hunt” in Rosarno. A team from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was to visit the area on Saturday, she said.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, said the tensions were a result of “too much tolerance towards clandestine immigration”.

According to Italy’s main trade union CGIL, about 50,000 immigrant workers in Italy live in poor conditions similar to those in Rosarno. It said immigrants employed as farm labourers earned low wages of around €25 ($39) a day. The union also accused the mafia of controlling the sector and criticised Mr Maroni’s statement, saying immigrants were paid “miserable salaries and have terrible hours, similar to slavery”.