Italy braces for anti-fascist and far-right protests

Italian far-right party Lega Nord’s (Northern League) supporters hold a banner reading “Salvini Prime Minister” as they take part in a campaign rally in Milan on Feb. 24, 2018 ahead of Italy’s general election. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2018
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Italy braces for anti-fascist and far-right protests

ROME: Italy stepped up security for mass demonstrations by far-right and anti-fascist groups across the country on Saturday as tensions rise ahead of next week’s general election.
There has been a dramatic increase of violent clashes between anti-fascist and far-right activists in recent weeks, particularly after a racially motivated attack on Feb. 3 by a far-right gunman in the central city of Macerata that left six African migrants wounded.
Three thousand police were mobilized in Rome on Saturday for two marches and three “sit-ins” by both left and right groups likely to draw up to 20,000 people.
Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi was expected to attend the largest demonstration in Italy’s capital, organized by the National Association of Italian Partisans (ANPI), under the slogan “Fascism Never Again.”
Another anti-fascist protest in Rome, organized by a left-wing union, will rail against the Jobs Act, a flagship reform of Renzi’s government. One of the sit-ins will be hosted by Giorgia Meloni, head of the far-right Brothers of Italy party.
Roberto Fiore, head of the extreme-right Forza Nuova group, will march in Palermo, Sicily, after one of his party’s activists was beaten up by men wearing masks there on Tuesday.
The far-left Potere al Popolo movement will also hold a rally in Palermo.
Matteo Salvini, the head of The League, will attend a demonstration in Milan. The far-right group formerly known as the Northern League is part of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition, along with Brothers of Italy.
The far-right CasaPound movement will also march in Milan.
Yet another demonstration will be held in Brescia, northern Italy, where an ANPI social center was torched on Thursday night.
On the same day three police officers were injured after clashes with anti-fascist protesters demonstrating against a CasaPound meeting in the northwestern city of Turin.
The spike in violence comes amid fears of a revival of far-right parties in the Mar. 4 election.
An average of the last major polls suggested Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition could finish on top, but fail to achieve a parliamentary majority.


Police smash rings that smuggled Moroccan minors into Spain

Updated 26 min 42 sec ago
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Police smash rings that smuggled Moroccan minors into Spain

  • One gang allegedly charged about €2,000 to smuggle a minor by boat from Morocco, a price that would rise to up to €8,000 if weather conditions were bad.
  • The group charged €5,000 to bring minors across on a jet ski and €2,500 hidden inside trucks on ferries. It is suspected of having smuggled over 100 migrants into Spain from Morocco.

MADRID: Police have broken up two gangs suspected of smuggling minors from Morocco into Spain on jet skis, boats or hidden inside trucks, charging thousands of euros for the crossing, Spanish police and Europol said Friday.
One gang allegedly charged about €2,000 ($2,300) to smuggle a minor by boat from Morocco, a price that would rise to up to €8,000 if weather conditions were bad, Spanish police said in a statement.
The group charged €5,000 to bring minors across on a jet ski and €2,500 hidden inside trucks on ferries. It is suspected of having smuggled over 100 migrants into Spain from Morocco.
Spanish police said they had broken up the group with the arrest of 22 people across the country, including three employees of a youth detention center in the northern region of Asturias suspected of helping the minors get documents to be able to live in Spain legally.
The authorities said they began their investigation after detecting a significant rise in the arrival of unaccompanied minors from Morocco at this youth detention center, who were all mainly from the same area near the Sahara desert.
During a second phase police broke up another gang linked to the first group which smuggled minors from Morocco to Spain by boat, but which also kidnapped minors who were brought in by rival groups and held them for ransom in forests or safe houses in the southern province of Cadiz.
“The criminal gang collected money by extorting the minors’ families in Morocco, sometimes using violence and threats, until they paid a ransom of €500 to release the children,” Europol, which worked with Spanish police on the operation, said in a statement.
Spanish police said they had smashed this second group with the arrest of six of its members.
The Strait of Gibraltar separates Spain and Morocco by around just 15 kilometers (nine miles) — a ferry ride between the two continents takes roughly 40 minutes — making it one of the key smuggling routes for illegal immigrants crossing into Europe.
Spain is the third busiest gateway for migrants arriving in Europe, still far behind Italy but catching up fast with Greece.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 22,400 people arrived in Spain by sea last year, nearly triple the number for 2016. Some 223 people died along the way.