Italy's plan to fingerprint Roma people has received a green light from the European Commission, with Brussels' experts suggesting that the controversial measures are not discriminatory or in breach of EU standards.
A commission spokesman told journalists on Thursday (4 September) that the practice proposed by Italian authorities earlier this year is only aimed at identifying persons "who cannot be identified in any other way" and excludes the collection of "data relating to ethnic origin or the religion of people."
The centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi sparked protests from human rights organisations and several in the European Parliament after announcing its plan to fingerprint Roma people - including children - as part of a census of Roma camps.
Some critics of the move compared it to the policies of Benito Mussolini, the country's fascist leader during the Second World War...
Debs also linked to this petition, which is
"to be sent to a summit on the future of the Roma at the European Parliament on 16th September. Please sign it and spread word to everyone you know about it"
...In recent weeks, Romany people in Italy have been subjected to police registration, by means such as fingerprinting, and to forcible rehousing. The Italian government claims this is part of their efforts to control immigration but the actions smack of racism and are a gross violation of basic human rights.
In May 2008 rumours of an abduction of a baby girl by a Gypsy woman in Naples led to an outbreak of racist violence against Roma camps. The response by Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni to this was “that is what happens when gypsies steal babies”.
That this can happen in Europe in the 21st century, 53 years after the defeat of Nazism and Italian fascism is extremely worrying. On 10th July the European Parliament called the fingerprinting of Gypsies in Italy a clear act of racial discrimination and urged the authorities to stop it. The EU assembly said the measure is not supported by EU human rights treaties and that EU citizens of Roma, or Gypsy, origin must not be treated differently from others in Italy, who are not required to submit their fingerprints.
In Austria, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors and reports on the human rights situation in its 56 participating states, including Italy, also expressed serious reservations about Italy's handling of Gypsies.
The Roma suffered greatly in the Holocaust and I worry that the relative apathy towards the actions of the Italian Government, let alone to far right parties and those with far right sympathies across Europe, will give the far right more confidence to undertake more extreme actions that recall terrible memories of the 1930s and 40s. As history shows, if people and nations remain silent bystanders then fascism can take root and I think that a hard stand is required.
I am well aware that Italy, like many countries in Europe, is concerned about immigration, crime and so on, but am also keenly aware that treating the Roma as second class citizens is not an answer and is a fall-back to the less glorious days of Europe's recent history.
and a facebook community with updates.
ETA: and via Devious Diva, who's been tracking European and particularly Greek treatment of the Roma for some years, had this to say on what's happening in Italy:
Although, this post is based on events happening in Italy, attitudes towards the Roma is no different here or in the rest of Europe. They are probably the most openly discriminated against people in Europe.
Italy has begun fingerprinting the entire Roma population. The European parliament has “urged” the country to stop this racial profiling (rather than condemn the process altogether). Left-leaning newspapers, human rights groups and activists are outraged but world leaders have been silent on the subject...
...One recent newspaper survey found 68% of people wanted all Italy’s Gypsies expelled, whether or not they held Italian passports. Another poll said more than three-quarters of people want unauthorised camps demolished.
This attitude seems to be sanctioned and reinforced by some of the highest authorities in Italy.
Italy’s legal system has already indicated there is nothing to stop discrimination against Roma. In a ruling handed down earlier this year, but only recently reported, the country’s highest appeal court ruled in the case of six people accused of anti-Gypsy racial propaganda that it was acceptable to single out Roma on the basis that they are thieves.
...There was one particular event that prompted me to write about the racial profiling in Italy (as you know I don’t cover many stories from outside Greece). I had briefly seen on the CNN ticker a sentence about the drowning of two Roma girls in Naples. Then theriomorph sent me some links to the story.
WARNING: THE PICTURES IN THE ARTICLES ARE VERY DISTURBING.
Italian newspapers, an archbishop and civil liberties campaigners expressed shock and revulsion on Monday after photographs were published of sunbathers apparently enjoying a day at the beach just meters from where the bodies of two drowned Roma girls were laid out on the sand.
...from the Independent, this article entitled The Picture that Shames Italy
It was the sort of tragedy that could happen on any beach. But what happened next has stunned Italy. The bodies of the two girls were laid on the sand; their sister and cousin were taken away by the police to identify and contact the parents. Some pious soul donated a couple of towels to preserve the most basic decencies. Then beach life resumed.
The indifference was taken as shocking proof that many Italians no longer have human feelings for the Roma, even though the communities have lived side by side for generations.
That is what I want to say about these latest events in Italy. It is the indifference that pains me so much about attitudes towards minorities. That we can ignore what happens in their communities because we barely see them as human. We see them as “a problem” that needs to be dealt with. I posted the other day about how labeling people as “illegals’ dehumanises them and makes it easier for us to turn a blind eye....
much more, go read.
The Roma (aka "Gypsies") are perennial targets and were particularly devastated during the Holocaust for similar reasons as the Jews were: primarily, peoples without a nation in an era of nationalism.
Which is not to say that anti-Semitism is totally dead, either, of course, even now that "we" -do- have a nation-state of our very own, but...well, that's another post.
Also see (thanks for the link, DD) Roma Rights Network.