Anti-riot police raid Rome migrant centre

Police clad in anti-riot gear and with sniffer dogs in tow raided a refugee centre in Rome on Tuesday, searching for undocumented migrants amid a tightened security effort in the capital since the Paris attacks.

Anti-riot police raid Rome migrant centre
Migrants queue for food outside Baobab migration centre in June. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Twenty-three of the 70 migrants, mostly from north Africa, Eritrea and Ethiophia, staying at the Baobab centre near Tiburtina station were detained, La Stampa reported.

Some 60 police officers, surrounded by sniffer dogs, arrived at the centre in armoured vehicles at around 6.30am.

Baobab, which is run by dozens of volunteers, is mostly used by migrants transiting through the capital before making their way to northern Europe and has often been at the centre of refugee solidarity efforts.

“We suspect that the controls today were related to public order needs and are part of the response to the Paris attacks,” one of the volunteers was quoted by La Stampa as saying.

One of the Paris attackers allegedly posed as a refugee, who entered Europe through the Greek island of Leros using a fake Syrian passport.

Volunteers expressed concern that the centre might soon be cleared, but without any back-up accommodation plan for the people living there.

The area outside Tiburtina station also hit the headlines in June when over 100 transiting migrants formed a makeshift camp after Baobab, which housed some 800 people at the time, exceeded capacity.

The security crackdown also comes less than a week after two Syrians were arrested for allegedly attempting to travel from Bergamo to Malta on false passports.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Monday that Salah Abdeslam, who is still being hunted over his alleged involvement in the Paris attacks, travelled through Italy in August.


Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.