Police are in the process of closing down and evacuating illegal camps which are occupied by the city's Roma community.

The authorities say they are beginning this task by concentrating on the camps they consider most at risk from adverse sanitary conditions. The plan, launched by Rome's mayor Gianni Alemanno, comes in the wake of France's controversial decision on the deportation of Roma families, and renewed public concern for the rights of Roma people across Europe.

Between 150 and 200 encampments in Rome will be dismantled under a new bylaw which obliges the communities to live in authorised areas. Recently a three-year old Roma boy was burned to death when a fire destroyed the camp in which he lived, near Fiumicino airport. This tragedy, which the mayor described as "a grievous loss for the city", forms part of the backdrop to the present scenario which has been sharply criticised by human rights associations.

At the same time Alemanno has said that the owners of the land in question will be required to maintain their property decently and secure it from illegal squatting.

The mayor also stated his wish for authorities in Brussels to discuss the creation of a comprehensive plan to regulate the flow of the Roma people.

Alemanno has asked Italy's interior minister Roberto Maroni to discuss the issue during his impending meeting with French interior minister Brice Hortefeux.