Pope urges respect for migrant workers

Jan. 11, 2010 at 7:43 AM
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ROSARNO, Italy, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Pope Benedict XVI called on Italians to respect the rights of immigrants in the wake of violence against African farmworkers in which 70 people were injured.

Police have moved hundreds of African farmworkers by bus from Rosarno, a town in Calabria in southern Italy, after clashes with police, the BBC reported Monday.

"An immigrant is a human being, different only in where he comes from, his culture and tradition," he told pilgrims in St Peter's Square at the Vatican. "I invite everyone to look in the face of those nearby and see their soul."

Many of the migrants from North and West Africa work as fruit and vegetable pickers in an area the BBC said is controlled by a local crime family.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni drew criticism from the opposition by saying the violence resulted from failure to address the issue of illegal workers in the country.

"There's a difficult situation in Rosarno, like in other places, because, for years, illegal immigration -- which feeds criminal activities -- has been tolerated and nothing effective has ever been done about it," Italy's La Repubblica quoted Maroni as saying.

Opposition leader Pierluigi Bersani dismissed Maroni's comments, saying, "We have to go to the root of the problem: mafia, exploitation, xenophobia and racism."

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