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Italy Tackles Garbage Crisis, Illegal Immigration

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The new government of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is in Naples, meeting at a city up to its ears in garbage. The government has announced tough measures to tackle the trash crisis and also to combat illegal immigration, as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Beginning his third term as prime minister, Berlusconi pledged to remove tons of rotting garbage from the streets of Naples and declared dump sites in national strategic areas to be guarded by the military. He announced stiff measures for anyone caught trespassing or blocking garbage collection. Previous attempts to open dumps in the Naples region have been blocked by protesting residents concerned about health risks.

The garbage crisis has festered for years in great part due to the local mafia's control of garbage collection and illegal disposal of northern industry's toxic waste. Italy has been swept up in an emotional wave of anger against immigrants - particularly Roma, or Gypsies - widely seen as responsible for crime.

New measures will make it easier to expel illegal immigrants and will make illegal immigration a crime, with jail terms of up to four years. Even European Union citizens living in Italy will be subject to tighter scrutiny and can be expelled if they fail to prove they have sufficient income and adequate living conditions.

Italy's new conservative government is itself under close scrutiny by the European Union, which has warned against discrimination of ethnic groups. The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations' Refugee Agency, UNHCR, criticized the Italian measures as unfairly targeting immigrants.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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