Italy to Fingerprint Roma — But No One Else

by Kevin Jon Heller

The persecution continues:

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday the government would press ahead with plans to fingerprint ethnic Roma, including children – a move branded as discriminatory by European Union officials. Frattini – the EU’s top justice official before he joined Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s cabinet – was commenting on remarks made Sunday by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, who described critics of the plan as “hypocrites.”

“I think Minister Maroni has done well to continue on the path he has outlined,” Frattini said. “We are not talking of raids (against Roma communities) or anything of the sort, but a measure to identify those living in our country.”

“These things are being done by many other countries in Europe without causing any scandal, and as such, they should also be done here,” Frattini added.

The measure, according to Frattini, would serve to protect Roma children, who often live in shanty settlements and are not registered to attend school.

Maroni, who is from the anti-immigration Northern League wants to include the fingerprinting in a security package designed to crack down on illegal immigrants and child beggars, many of whom are ethnic Roma (colloquially known as gypsies).

The plan has drawn widespread criticism including from Catholic and United Nations officials, human rights groups and Italian opposition parties.

Last week a spokesman for the European Commission, the EU executive, said member states singling out an ethnic group for fingerprinting would be breaking EU rules.

Shameful. No, they’re not talking about raids now — they’re talking about a way to make future raids more effective, by dramatically increasing the government’s ability to identify and locate citizen and non-citizen Roma alike. What’s next, making the Roma wear brown triangles?

One Response

  1. Breaking EU laws indeed. So what is the Commission going to do about it? A possible ECJ case could be brought (and I suspect it will be, eventually) but something needs to be done now. This is worse than Austria, or even Poland. Italy isn’t just threatening serious human rights violations by the state –it’s committing them with astounding speed.

    As for Frattini’s comment that:

    “These things are being done by many other countries in Europe without causing any scandal, and as such, they should also be done here.”

    He’s being dishonest here. There are efforts underway to better include Roma in national censuses, provide them with the same personal identification documents given to all other citizens for purposes of accessing public services, and stop the practice of child begging. BUT, these initiatives are mostly being conducted by either NGOs, or governments with NGO support on the ground, as well as support from and consultation with leaders in Roma communities. These are, for the most part, efforts aimed at bettering the position of Roma, and helping them understand, access and defend their rights. What Italy is doing is treating citizen and non-citizen Roma as a single and monolithically criminal group that must be specially targeted for numerous human rights violations in the name of law and order.

    It’s time for the good people in Brussels to get serious and tell Italy that this is not allowed, and will not continue without the Italian Government facing consequences.

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