Human rights activists and politicians in Italy and abroad have slammed Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister, after he announced plans to count the country’s Roma community with an eye to kicking out anyone without Italian nationality.
The far-right politician defended his position on Tuesday, a day after stirring controversy by saying on TV that he had commissioned “a dossier on the Roma situation in Italy” to see how many there are in the country.
He evoked the idea of expelling many of them, while adding that “unfortunately we have to keep Italian Roma people in Italy, because you can’t expel them”.
Salvini, who caused uproar last month when he barred an NGO-operated rescue ship from landing hundreds of mostly African migrants in Italy, ran into similar protests for his latest remarks.
Opposition MPs condemned the idea of a census as “racist” and “fascist”, while members of the newly-established ruling coalition also criticised his comments.
The opposition centre-left Democratic Party’s leader Matteo Orfini tweeted: “If we really want to carry out the census, I would start with the census of racists and fascists. To better avoid them.”
Luigi Di Maio, Italy’s deputy prime minister and leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement that makes up the coalition alongside Salvini’s far-right League party, said any census based on ethnicity would be “unconstitutional”.
A Roma Nation Association statement noted that the authorities had carried out a count of the community last year and called for a meeting with Salvini at the earliest opportunity.
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