by our Rome correspondent THE Italian government may ask the Vatican for more help in housing the hundreds of Polish refugees arriving weekly in Rome.
The Church has already tried to curb the influx of Polish immigrants to Italy, described by Polish Bishop Szepan Wesoly, in charge of refugee affairs, as a "national psychosis".
"Poles have their problems but that does not mean that all 40 million of them should emigrate", the Bishop said. What at first was a gesture of goodwill towards the Pope's compatriots has now become an embarrassing social problem for Italy.
In Rome alone 10,000 Poles have asked for political asylum in just over a year, and more arrive at a rate of 50 a day. The Italian government has already spent £30 million to provide accommodation for Polish families last year, and set aside a further £40 million for 1988.
The Rome city authorities sequestered empty flats and hotels paying owners around £12 a day for each refugee.
Because of the Pope, Italy and especially Rome, is the easiest destination for Poles, the Italian Refugee Commission says. "Back home they are granted tourist visas to come to the Vatican and see the Pope, but in the past 18 months very few have gone back", a commission spokesman said. He added that only one in four could demonstrate they had been victims of persecution in Poland, and only a small percentage had professional qualifications.