A rare moment of tenderness is exchanged between an Italian policeman and a refugee woman as police fired water cannons at migrants protesting their eviction from a building in Rome.
The officer intervened to comfort the crying woman as some refugees threw bottles, stones and even gas canisters at police, who responded with jets of water.
The clashes broke out in the capital’s Piazza Indipendenza, where refugees, many of them Eritreans who have fled one of Africa’s most brutal regimes, have been camped out for days.
The confrontation left the piazza strewn with blankets, mattresses and overturned rubbish bins, while small fires burned on the pavements.
Around 400 refugees were evicted at the weekend from a building that they have occupied for the last four years; many had been sleeping rough since.
Rome city council said they had been offered alternative accommodation but many of the refugees wanted to remain in the area.
City authorities accused radical Left-wing activists of “infiltrating” the refugees and persuading them to turn down offers of accommodation.
Two refugees were arrested – one of them as he was giving an interview to an Italian television station.
A Catholic charity, the Missionaries of San Carlo Borromeo, said the refugees were “victims twice over” – once for having fled their homeland in the Horn of Africa and again for the eviction.
Medecins Sans Frontieres accused the police of using disproportionate force, but the police said they had to deploy water cannons because of the danger of gas canisters exploding.
Many Italians are losing patience with the huge number of migrants and refugees their country has taken in over the last few years.
So far this year nearly 100,000 have arrived, while last year the figure was 181,000.
Around 200,000 migrants are living in state-run reception centres around the country.
With neighbouring countries such as France and Austria tightening border controls, the migrants are trapped and Italy feels abandoned by the rest of Europe.