Italian Interior Minister plans to deport Romani people, opposition calls the plan repugnant
Developing an "inventory" of Romani people and deporting those who do not have proper documentation is a plan being developed by Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. Last week he also advocated for taking a hardline approach against boats in the Mediterranean Sea that rescued several hundred migrants.
Salvini leads the anti-immigration "Liga" party and made his remarks yesterday through the regional television station Telelombardia. "I have asked the ministry to compile a file about the Romani question in Italy, " he said.
"[Since 2011] nobody has touched this issue and chaos prevails around it," the minister told the television station. He is part of the new Italian Government created by the Five-Star Movement and Liga parties and declared during his election campaign that he would arrange for the closure of all of Italy's illegally-established Romani settlements.
In yesterday's television broadcast Salvini spoke of conducting a "census" of Romani people and creating a "record" of them all. Those Romani people who do not have the requisite documentation would then be "deported" on the basis of bilateral agreements.
"The Italian Roma, unfortunately, we will have to keep here at home," said the minister, who is also Vice Prime Minister. Closing illegally-established Romani settlements is also a part of the governing parties' coalition program.
"As of today roughly 40 000 Romani people are living in settlements, 60 % of whom are minors," an official document reports. Prior to the Government seeking a vote of confidence, Italian Senator for life Lilian Segre, who is a Holocaust survivor, appeared in the upper chamber and emphasized that she would be against any laws aimed against Romani people.
"Yesterday it was immigrants, today it's Roma, tomorrow the pistol will be aimed at all of us," commented former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of the left-wing Democratic Party (PD) on Twitter. Maurizio Martina, who is temporarily leading the PD, called the Interior Minister's words "repugnant".
Italian MP Matteo Orfini (PD) responded to the Interior Minister by saying: "If we actually are to move toward a census, I'd start with one of the Fascists and racists." Commentary was also heard from the left side of the political spectrum that the "dark" parts of Italy's past are connected with conducting a census of Jewish people during the Fascist period.
Salvini responded by saying that he did not intend to establish a separate registry for Romani people and to fingerprint them, but that he just wanted to "save the Romani children" living in the settlements whose parents allegedly do not send them to school. The extreme-right Liga party, which was previously a rather marginal one, got 17 % of the vote during the March elections.
The party built its electoral success on a strongly anti-immigrant, racist rhetoric. Last week Salvini began to apply a harsh approach against the sailing vessels of foreign NGOs that are contributing to the rescue of migrants who end up in emergency situations on the Mediterranean Sea.
Italy last week refused to allow the Aquarius ship, run by the humanitarian organizations Doctors without Borders and SOS Méditerranée, to enter its docks with 629 migrants on board. The boat was eventually received by the Spanish and some of the refugees will apparently want to travel to France as well.
The Italian Government intends to stay on its negative course on immigration. Media reported today that according to Salvini, Italian Coast Guard and Naval vessels should operate near the Italian coasts only.
The Interior Minister also believes that many more countries can join the search and rescue work in the Mediterranean, such as France, the North African states, Portugal and Spain. Italy is still continuing to receive Italian-registered vessels with refugees on board.
"Finally the Belgians, the Dutch, the French, the Germans and even the Spaniards are listening to us," Salvini assessed the outcome of applying a merciless position on the issue. Tomorrow he is scheduled to meet with his Austrian counterpart, Herbert Kickl.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said recently that he wants to create an "axis of the willing" together with the German Interior Horst Seehofer and the Italian Government to combat illegal migration into Europe. Because of disputes between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Seehofer about returning migrants directly at the border, which the Interior Minister is in favor of, a Government crisis is openly being discussed in Germany.
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