Nine illegal immigrants detained in Italy have stitched their
lips together with thread from their bedsheets in a protest
to demand their release.
The protest, which started at a centre near Rome on Saturday,
came days after video emerged of immigrants at another camp
standing naked in the cold to be sprayed for scabies. It drew
new calls for the closure of detention centres and for
changes to immigration laws.
Using a needle improvised from a cigarette lighter, four
Tunisians each made a single stitch to join their lips in the
middle, Filiberto Zaratti, a lawmaker who visited the
protesters, told Reuters.
Five Moroccans later imitated the gesture, according to the
centre's manager, speaking on Italian television. The
protesters asked to be let out of the centre, the manager
Italy has borne the brunt of a wave of immigration to the
European Union, with more than 40,000 people risking the
dangerous sea crossing from northern Africa this year -
almost four times as many as last year.
Illegal immigrants can be held for up to 18 months while they
Despite stitching their lips, the protesters could still eat
and drink and had been examined by a doctor, Zaratti said,
describing their living conditions as shameful.
"That people were forced to such an extreme form of protest
reflects their desperation," the lawmaker for the opposition
Left Ecology and Freedom party said. "These structures should
be closed immediately."
Last week, video emerged of naked detainees being sprayed on
the island of Lampedusa, where hundreds of migrants died in a
shipwreck in October.
On Sunday, the spokesman on immigration issues for the main
party in the ruling coalition, the centre-left Democratic
Party, said the government would pass less restrictive
immigration laws next year. Italy's biggest union and Rome's
mayor have also called for the closure of detention centres.
But relaxing immigration laws could also set up a fight
within Italy's coalition.
The small New Centre Right party that defected from Silvio
Berlusconi's Forza Italia to support the government last
month has repeatedly said it opposes loosening the