Italy’s New Interior Minister Census Order on the Gypsy Population Recalls anti-Semitic Holocaust-Era Law

By Lega Salvini Premier [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Salvini slammed as a racist

The Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI), the influential Jewish community in Italy condemned a call made by Matteo Salvini , the ultra-right wing Italian interior minister, to take a detailed census of the Roma population, popularly known as gypsies, in Italy. The UCEI said such a move to make a Roma “registry” brings back a time in Italy when anti-Semitic legislation was introduced by the fascist government during the start of the Second World War.

In his media interview, Salvini reiterated his hawkish stance that he wants to order the Roma population to be registered. Doing so, he explained, would assist to deport the undocumented Roma people. Salvini said, only Romas who hold Italian citizenship will "unfortunately" be permitted to remain in the country. The Roma population in Italy presently numbers about 170,000. They form a distinct cultural and ethnic group of northern Italy origin. Persecution is nothing new for the Roma. They have suffered persecution for multiple decades in continental Europe.

Salvini's remarks were met with sharp rejoinders from human rights groups. They are afraid that such comments made by a government minister will increase public hostility towards the Roma. The minister, who is the leader of the League Party, an ultra-right wing political organization, said that he ordered the concerned personnel to compose a dossier on Roma situation to fully understand the problem he is dealing with. The minister later clarified that he does not have any has intentions of taking digital fingerprints or creating files of the Roma people.

The UCEI in its statement said the minister's comments reawakens memories of the extremely racist measures implemented before and during World War II. It lamented that such historical events are being forgotten. For the League Party, it won elections by screaming its anti-immigrant platform. In its statement, the Jewish organization claimed there was no “search for consensus, no anxiety about public order that justifies the disturbing proposal to single out specific social categories of citizens, to censor them and subject them to special security policies reserved only for them.”

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