Very unhappy article in the Guardian today about the Roma situation in Italy:
Last week, Silvio Berlusconi’s new rightwing Italian administration announced plans to carry out a national registration of all the country’s estimated 150,000 Gypsies – Roma and Sinti people – whether Italian-born or migrants. Interior minister and leading light of the xenophobic Northern League, Roberto Maroni, insisted that taking fingerprints of all Roma, including children, was needed to “prevent begging” and, if necessary, remove the children from their parents…
In the same week as Maroni was defending his racial registration plans in parliament, Italy’s highest appeal court ruled that it was acceptable to discriminate against Roma on the grounds that “all Gypsies were thieves”, rather than because of their “Gypsy nature”.
Official roundups and forced closures of Roma camps have been punctuated with vigilante attacks. In May, rumours of an abduction of a baby girl by a Gypsy woman in Naples triggered an orgy of racist violence against Roma camps by thugs wielding iron bars, who torched caravans and drove Gypsies from their slum homes in dozens of assaults, orchestrated by the local mafia, the Camorra. The response of Berlusconi’s government to the firebombing and ethnic cleansing? “That is what happens when Gypsies steal babies,” shrugged Maroni; while fellow minister and Northern League leader Umberto Bossi declared: “The people do what the political class isn’t able to do.”
This sounds pretty alarming. On the other hand, it’s (1) the Guardian, and (2) Seumas “it’s all been straight downhill since the Miners Strike” Milne. So, possibly some pearl-clutching here.
Other-other hand, this is a real, serious problem. The current Italian government seems to be making a very deliberate choice to scapegoat immigrants in general, and the Roma (whether immigrant or native) in particular.
I guess this is something of a bleg. Just how bad is it really getting in Italy? Brief googling doesn’t turn up much on the court’s “all Gypsies are thieves” decision; does anyone have anything on this? And the “fingerprint all Gypsies” bill: political theater, or really likely to pass and be enforced? The Northern League is obnoxious, that’s clear; is Maroni really as bad as all that?
Also, a legal question: what mechanisms, if any, would there be to prevent human rights abuses on this scale in an EU member? Individuals whose rights are violated could appeal to the European Court of Justice, but is there anything else?
As you can see, this isn’t really my area. But it seems like something to keep an eye on…