Pope appeals for calm after Rome immigrant clashes

Rome mayor in dispute with government over immigration policies

Pope Francis has warned of a "social emergency" after repeated protests outside an immigration centre in Rome's suburbs have stoked social and racial tensions in the capital.

The pontiff made his remarks during his weekly Angelus address at St Peter's Square on 16 November, following several days of angry protests by local residents outside a reception centre in the disadvantaged Tor Sapienza district in east Rome. Locals accuse the migrants housed in the Sorriso building of drug pushing, sexual harassment and robberies in their area.

Outlining the "quite serious tension between residents and immigrants," Pope Francis appealed to "all institutions, at every level, to consider as a priority something which now amounts to a social emergency which, if not dealt with appropriately as soon as possible, risks degenerating even more."

Now the mayor of Rome Ignazio Marino is coming under fire over the capital's role in the ongoing crisis. Dismissing calls for his resignation, Marino blamed the Italian interior ministry for “12 years of mismanagement” in relation to immigration policies at the Tor Sapienza centre.

However the country's interior minister Angelino Alfano issued the terse reply: “Here we are talking about Tor Sapienza, which is in Rome, where the mayor is Marino. The mayor chooses the place and the interior ministry provides the funds. Period.”

Protests have also begun outside an immigration centre in the south Rome suburb of Infernetto where 25 young migrants have been relocated from Tor Sapienza.

Local members of the rightwing Fratelli d'Italia political party are said to be organising a demonstration against the immigrants' arrival, scheduled to take place in the coming days.