Italy’s newly-named Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has called for a census of the country’s Roma population, adding that he wants to close the community’s camps and that he would begin building a dossier on the population by first creating a register of the Romani population.
According to Salvini, a census would allow the authorities to “see who, how (they live) and how many there are.”
Salvini, who is the leader of the far-right Lega, or League, Party wants to ensure the immediate deportation of any member of Italy’s Roma community who do not have a legal right to residence. He also lamented that he could not carry out a similar pogrom against Italy’s legal Roma residents, who estimated to number between 120,000–180,000 people, around half of whom are thought to be Italian citizens
“Irregular (undocumented) foreigners will be deported via agreements with other countries, but Italian Roma, unfortunately, you have to keep at home,” he was quoted as saying, in reference to his distaste for existing Italian laws that protect legal residents.
The leader of the opposition Democratic Party, Maurizio Martina, expressed his revulsion at Salvini’s suggestion that a census needed to be done that would specifically target the Roma community. His position was backed by former Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who said via Twitter that he was concerned about Lega’s plans to target refugees and Roma.
The Democratic Party’s president, Matteo Orfini, responded to Salvini by posting a sharp retort to his proposal for a Roma census by asking whether it would be more appropriate to count the number of racists and fascists in the country instead of focusing on migrants and non-Italians.
Salvini and Lega have a long history of targeting Italy’s Roma population. The party has already proposed creating exceptional laws for Roma people that would allow authorities to remove children from their families if they were found to be truant from school.
According to human rights organizations, the introduction of a census that targets a specific population is illegal. Moreover, the Roma population is particularly hard to register, as much of the population is effectively stateless. In April. Salvini marked International Roma Day by taking to Twitter and saying, “if many of them worked more and stole less and if many of them sent their children to school instead of teaching them to steal, then it really would be something to celebrate.”