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Hunger strike at Rome migrants' centre escalates

Italian officials say changes coming to immigration laws

24 December, 15:29
Hunger strike at Rome migrants' centre escalates (See related) (ANSA) - Rome, December 24 - As the number of migrants on a hunger strike at a centre in Rome continued to rise on Tuesday, a government official suggested a law should be put in place to limit the amount of time newcomers must spend in detention centres.

Deputy interior minister Filippo Bubbico told Avvenire, a Catholic newspaper, that secondary detention centers (CIE) can be a "powderkeg" for violence when migrants are held too long without determining their backgrounds. "The CIE are a powderkeg, since they contain both migrants who have not committed any crime and foreign former detainees who have not yet been identified," said Bubbico. "The latter need to be separated from other migrants and quickly sent back to their own countries".

He explained that under Italian law, migrants can be held for up to 18 months, which exceeds European regulations.

It is also an affront to the dignity of migrants, he added.

As Bubbico spoke, migrants continued their protest on Tuesday in the CIE in Ponte Galeria, near the Italian capital.

Nine migrants sewed their mouths shut on Monday to draw attention to conditions in the centers. As well, the number of migrants on a hunger strike in the Ponte Galeria center rose to 37 on Tuesday from 30 on Monday.

Vincenzo Lutrelli, the director of the center, said the situation was calm Tuesday morning despite the growing numbers of protestors.

He suggested the migrants refusing food are drinking healthy beverages and "are being sustained by nourishment provided by the center. "Since the protest has been underway since Saturday, I can assure that none of them are in critical condition".

Lutrelli added that he hopes the protesters would call a halt for Christmas on Wednesday, especially following pledges by Prime Minister Enrico Letta to act quickly on changing the country's immigration laws.

On Monday, Letta promised to add to the government's January agenda the subject of revising current immigration law and the country's system for receiving migrants.

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