In Depth

Italy’s new interior minister calls for Roma registry

Matteo Salvini unveils plan to expel all non-Italian Roma

Roma Gypsy

Italy’s new far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has sent shockwaves through the country’s fragile ruling coalition by ordering a census of Roma people and the expulsion of those without Italian citizenship.

Salvini, the leader of the far-right populist Lega party, told a local TV channel on Monday that he had ordered officials to prepare a dossier on Italy’s 130,000-strong Roma population to find out “who [they are], how [they live] and how many of them there are”, the BBC reports.

The dossier would be the first part of an “answer to the Roma question”, he said. Those without Italian citizenship -  around 57% - would ultimately be deported.

Mainstream politicians have roundly condemned the idea as illegal and morally unacceptable.

Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement, the Lega’s left-leaning coalition partner, said that such a registry would be “unconstitutional”.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that Salvini had gone “too far”, while opposition centre-left Democratic Party (PD) said the plan was "abhorrent", news agency Ansa reports.

The proposal has also attracted the attention of the European Commission. Asked about Salvini’s plan, spokesman Alexander Winterstein said: “A European citizen cannot be expelled on the basis of ethnicity” and said the Commission “could not exclude” the possibility of intervening with the Italian government.

Noemi Di Segni, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said that the tactic was reminiscent of Nazi persecution.

“There is no public safety justification for the alarming proposal to single out specific categories of people, register them and subject them to special laws that only apply to them,” she told Rai News.

However, “polls show that Italians are backing the interior minister, who is now polling about equal to Di Maio, at 29%, in terms of popularity,” The Guardian reports.

Hours after the controversial announcement, Salvini attempted to soften his initial remarks, “saying he did not want to create a separate list of the Roma, and that his intention was to protect Roma children and ensure they were going to school”.

Today, the far-right leader posted images to his official Facebook page showing the destruction of a house in an unauthorised Sinti gypsy camp in a Lega-controlled district near Turin.

“From words to actions,” he wrote in the caption, along with the hashtag “Italians first”.

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