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The name on our neighbours’ doorbell is self-effacing in the extreme. “Bangladesh”, it says simply, as if the 15 or so fellows crammed into a small flat downstairs have no identities to call their own bar their nationality. Seven days a week, I see them setting off for work, mostly in pairs. They sell tourist tat at the Colosseum, a mere sword’s thrust away, suiting their wares to the weather: knock-off Aviators, flimsy tele­scopic brollies or this sweltering summer’s bestseller – Japanese-style paper parasols.

Trade is brisk until the police launch a raid. Then the Bangladeshis scoop up their sunglasses stall (a square piece of cardboard) and melt into the nearby Colle Oppio park. The police snarl from their Fiats but make little attempt to follow. Half an hour later, our neighbours emerge from hiding-places within the ruined Baths of Trajan and scurry home.

For now it seems more a game than a serious crackdown. Yet the public and government mood towards immigrants, whether legal or illegal, is increasingly ugly and next time it could be the army launching a raid. Silvio Berlusconi, the prime minister who returned to power in April on a law-and-order ticket, has now brought 4,000 troops out onto the streets of Italy’s major cities to patrol alongside the police in the fight against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism (“Posturing and window-dressing”, according to the Left). There will be 1,000 in Rome.

Round our way, at least, we are used to army fatigues, because of the famous military hospital on the Caelian Hill where we live. Until now, the convalescent soldiers have haunted local bars drinking powerful espressos. By the time you read this, they may be baton-charging the Bangladeshis.

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September 22nd, 2008
2:09 AM
Hear, hear. I am glad to hear that the Italian government is taking a tough line on immigration and echo Liz's thoughts that you can't get to criticise the policy of multiculturalism. Scots respresent 10% of the population of the UK but how many do you see as broadcasters? Asians are barely 3% but are at least 30% of Newsnight. I am tired of this argument that nobody wants the jobs that immigrants take. Firstly, I am sceptical; and secondly, IF we did need immigrants it is better we are in control of seeking them.

Liz Gibson
September 5th, 2008
11:09 AM
Whilst Topaz Amoor's article does highlight the negative attitute of Italians to immigrants, I feel that perhaps she should also address the problems that arise from mass immigration. As a Scot residing in Guildford, Surrey there are times when I feel that it is I who is the ethnic minority. We in Britian cannot criticise, even constructively, for fear of being labelled racist. However, we, the indiginous population have to remain silent when accused of racism for fear of the racist slur. It is about time that the immigration problem is addressed openly by all without being accused of bias toward to those who are not indiginous to this country. Of course the majority of immigrants are highly skilled and many are hard working thus contributing positively to our economy but we should not ignore the other side of the coin. There are those who abuse our benefits system and are a strain on our NHS and schools.

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