- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Italy: A National Registry for Roma People?

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Western Europe, Italy, Digital Activism, Ethnicity & Race, Governance, Human Rights, Politics

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's new right wing Cabinet recently launched plans to carry out a national registration of all Roma people in Italy [1] [it], including fingerprints of all children. Italy is home to an estimated 150,000 Roma and Sinti people [2] (often referred to as Gypsies [3]) who live in around 700 camps across the country. Although many Roma people are born in Italy, they are increasingly becoming scapegoats of a more complex immigration issue.

A growing perception in the general population that “all Gypsies are thieves”, is being publicly supported by some judges and politicians. According to the Interior minister and a leading figure of the anti-immigration Northern League, Roberto Maroni, the national registration initiative is needed to “prevent begging” and, if necessary, remove the children from their parents.

A few days ago the European Parliament urged the Italian government [4] to stop the fingerprinting of Gypsies, calling it racial discrimination. The assembly agreed on a resolution saying the practice was not supported by European Union human rights treaties and insisting that, “EU citizens of Roma or Gypsy origin must be treated equally to others in Italy”. Maroni replied [5] [it] he was outraged over the accusation of racism, insisting his plan is simply to carry out a “comprehensive national census” of the Roma people with no kind of discrimination whatsoever.

Caricature of Roberto Maroni by Gianfalco.it [6], republished under Creative Commons license

The ensuing, heated public debate is overflowing in the online space of Italy (and beyond), with many discussions focusing on civil rights protection and ethnic discrimination. On Kebelek [7] [it], a widely-read blog that often links to writing by and about Roma people, Miguel Martinez writes:

Fingere la propria superiorità etica e distribuire colpe morali a grandi gruppi di persone è in qualche modo la matrice del genocidio.
Perché se gli altri hanno scelto di essere malvagi, se ogni singolo membro di quel gruppo ha scelto di essere malvagio, allora tutti i membri del gruppo meritano la punizione.
Condannare interi blocchi della specie umana per motivi morali è una perdita di tempo; e comunque le questioni sociali di grande portata non possono avere soluzioni etiche.

Pretending to affirm one's own ethnic superiority and assigning moral sins to vast groups of people, amounts somehow to a genocide matrix.
This implies that if others are evil, or a single person of that group has chosen to be evil, then all members of that group deserve to be punished.
To condemn entire chunks of human beings is a waste of time; and anyway, no social issue carrying such a large scope can have ethical solutions.

A blog published by the Sinti culture institute [8] [it] provides comprehensive updates and other resources particularly on the fingerprinting issue. They also published an online poll questioning whether Maroni should resign from the Cabinet: so far 77% (262 people) voted yes. Their statement calling for Maroni's ousting [9] [it] received many comments, including some heavy ‘flaming’.

Commenter xpisp [10] [it]:

Personalmente se mi chiedessero di depositare impronte e DNA per creare una banca dati e risolvere + facilmente alcuni delitti, non avendo nulla da nascondere, non avrei proprio nulla in contrario.

Personally, it they'd ask me to provide fingerprints and DNA samples to create a databank to help in solving some crimes, since I have nothing to hide, I wouldn't be opposed at all.

Commenter Antonoi [11]:

Per come è stata presa la decisione di schedare i rom sono contrario. è una politica razziale e xenofoba (giungendo da un ministro leghista….) se vi è la logica impellente della sicurezza prendiamo le impronte a tutte le persone presenti in questo momento in italia. scegliere di schedare una sola comunità è xenofobia, serve per dare un contentino al popolo bue che applaude e non capisce cosa realmente si muove in italia e soprattutto si imbocca tutto quello che mamma-tv dice.

In the way they decided for the Roma fingerprinting, I'm against it. it a racist and xenophobic policy (also being promoted by a league minister…). if there's a need of an emergency security then let's take fingerprints of each person currently living in italy. choosing to do it for just one community is xenophobic, it serves to give a sweetener to our stupid people cheering without understanding what's really happening in italy and moreover swallowing whatever godmother-TV tells them.

Commenter Carlo Berini [12]:

il problema che poni è reale ma non è che negando i diritti civili che risolverai il tuo problema, anzi…

we have a real problem here, but denying someone's civil rights is not a solution, quite the opposite…

Finally, just one of the many initiatives supporting the Roma people struggle: Immigrazione Oggi [13], a video website in nine languages for foreigners living in Italy, launched a “Campaign against prejudice towards Roma people” mostly based on a video [14] [it] showing images of ordinary Roma citizens at work.

Screenshot from the video by Immigrazione Oggi [13]