Europe

Italian police battle Tunisian migrants on Lampedusa

  • 21 September 2011
  • From the section Europe

Italian riot police have clashed with hundreds of Tunisian migrants, protesting against conditions on the island of Lampedusa.

Police with shields and batons herded the immigrants onto a raised terrace.

Television pictures showed riot police beating the migrants, forcing them to jump 4m (13ft) off a balcony.

Lampedusa, midway between Sicily and Africa's mainland, was overwhelmed earlier this year as tens of thousands fled revolutions in Tunisia and Libya.

Tension has been growing on the tiny southern Italian island over the past few days.

More than 1,000 Tunisian migrants face being sent back home under an agreement with Tunis.

But they are clamouring to be taken to the Italian mainland.

Migrants set mattresses on fire on Tuesday at the island's crowded reception centre to protest against forced repatriation.

Three buildings were destroyed.

Then this morning about 300 marched through the streets of Lampedusa, chanting "Freedom, freedom".

The protesters threw stones at police.

Lampedusa's mayor, Bernardino De Rubeis, criticised the Italian government for abandoning the island to cope with the chaos itself.

He called for helicopters and ships to be sent to evacuate the migrants to the mainland.

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