'Vulgar and demagogical': Italy's interior minister wants a register of gypsies

Elias Hubbard
June 22, 2018

ITALY'S hardline interior minister, who sparked worldwide condemnation by refusing entry to a rescue ship with 630 migrants on board, is now taking aim at the country's minority Roma community.

Turning his attention to another group that has often been the target of League ire, Salvini said his ministry was looking at "the Roma question" and wanted to see "who, and how many" there were.

Italy has a sizeable Roma community that includes people originally from Romania and the former Yugoslavia.

Salvini set off a storm in Europe last week when he refused to let a charity ship carrying more than 600 mainly African migrants dock in Italy.

Condemnation of his proposal was rapid and widespread, with not only the opposition parties but also members of the newly-established ruling coalition adding their voices.

The League leader then clarified his position, insisting he was not proposing a register after all. "To better avoid them".

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in Berlin to meet with his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, was infuriated by Salvini's remarks and said the interior minister "had gone too far", according to Italian news reports.

"It is not our intention to catalog or take digital fingerprints of anyone". 'We also want to check how millions of euro that come from European funds are spent'.

EU Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told journalists that "as a general rule, we can not deport a European citizen based on ethnic criteria".

The proposal for the census evoked distant but still-bitter memories of the racial laws against Jews and the Roma, instituted by Benito Mussolini's government 80years ago.

Italian news organizations noted Tuesday that whenever Conte was about to step out on the worldwide stage, as he did in Berlin on Monday, Salvini managed to steal the limelight. "I won't give up and I'll move ahead", he wrote on Tuesday.

'Unfortunately we will have to keep the Italian Roma because we can't expel them, ' Salvini told TV station Telelombardia.

"Our goal is a recognition of the situation of Roma camps. We intend to protect thousands of children who are not allowed to attend school regularly".

Salvini's "announcement of a possible, specific census of the Roma population in Italy worries us and reawakens memories of the racist measures taken just 80 years ago and, sadly, increasingly forgotten", the UCEI statement said.

Paolo Gentiloni, the centre-left prime minister who led Italy for two years, tweeted: "Refugees yesterday, Roma today, tomorrow guns for all".

Something scary is happening in Italy right now.

The leader of the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, Giorgia Meloni, said a census of the Roma was "OK" - obviously a first step. Making a census on people's ethnicity. Italy would deport the rest, he said, though it was unclear where they could go.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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