ITALY is to begin deporting immigrants who “represent a danger to the public” – and tonight urged Britain to follow suit.

Demands for action have been fuelled by the brutal rape and killing this week of the 47-year-old wife of a naval officer on the outskirts of Rome – the latest crime attributed to mass immigration from eastern Europe.

The woman was attacked near a railway station and left for dead in a nearby ditch. An unemployed 24-year-old Romanian has been arrested in connection with the killing, after police found him in possession of her handbag.

Under the new laws, which some experts would like to see adopted in Britain, local authorities will have the power to deport EU citizens “who represent a threat to public security”.

The first such expulsions could be arranged this week, after Italian president Giorgio Napolitano signed the legislation last night.

More than 1,000 Romanians a month have been arriving in Italy since since Romania joined the EU this year.

Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni, says that three quarters of the people arrested for murder, rape and robbery in the capital this year have been Romanian. In addition, 76 murders, not including this week’s killing, have been blamed on immigrants from Romania.

However, since Romania entered the EU, robberies and sex attacks in the eastern European country have fallen dramatically – muggings by more than a quarter.

The inspector general of the Romanian police force, Gheorghe Papa, is reported in the Italian press as saying that “more liberal laws [in western Europe] have probably encouraged criminal elements to go abroad”.

Leading left-wing politicians, including Fausto Bertinotti, speaker of the house, last night described the new deportation powers as “unconstitutional” and threatened to vote them down when they are up for review before the Italian parliament in 60 days’ time.

And left-wing newspapers described Veltroni’s comments as racist.

But Italian premier Romano Prodi said EU nations, including the UK, should face up to the new crime wave.

He called on Europe’s home office ministers to meet and find a solution.

“We politicians have to show we are serious about maintaining order in our territory,” he said.

This week a UK high court judge refused the British government’s request to expel the EU national – an Italian – who murdered head teacher Phillip Lawrence in 1995.