One of the first fruits of the lash up between the far right League party and the supposedly left-leaning Five Star Movement is a proposal by interior minister Matteo Salvini for a census of Roma and the expulsion of thousands who aren’t Italian citizens. A leader of Italy’s Jewish community compared it to Mussolini’s racial laws.
The persecution of Italy’s Roma/Sinti/gypsy community has a long and dishonourable history in Italy. The first expulsions took place in 1926, long before the Holocaust, which murdered at least 200,000 European Roma. Ten years ago, Silvio Berlusconi’s government began a racial registration and fingerprinting programme, claiming it faced a “security emergency”. In a poll in May 2008, 68% of those questioned supported the expulsion of the country’s estimated 150,000-strong community.
Two months later, holidaymakers were pictured sun bathing at Torregaveta, north of Naples, while the bodies of two Roma children who had drowned lay on the beach. In the same year, Italy’s highest appeal court ruled that it was acceptable to discriminate against Roma on the grounds that “all Gypsies are thieves”. In 2014, rioters in Rome chanted “Long live Il Duce”, and poured out hatred against blacks, Arabs, Muslims and gypsies.