Swedish police have started clearing a Roma camp in Malmo after a months-long standoff between city authorities and about 200 people who had settled there without permission.

Dozens of people remained in the camp despite a weekend deadline to move out after local authorities deemed the camp unsanitary and a threat to the environment and the health of the people living there.

Police moved in before dawn Tuesday to remove protesters who were blocking city authorities from tearing down the camp, a cluster of ramshackle homes built on an abandoned industrial lot.

Police commander Tommy Sverngard said the officers were helping city officials "to execute their decision without risk of being hindered or injured."

The city has offered temporary shelter to the camp dwellers, many of whom are from Romania.