Italy Declares State of Emergency Over Roma Immigrants

Nick Pisa, London Telegraph, July 25, 2008

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni asked the cabinet to approve his “countrywide state of emergency to deal with the exceptional and persistent influx” of immigrants.

Minister Maroni added that this would “strengthen the activity to tackle and deal the phenomenon,” but no details were made immediately available about what the order would entail.

Earlier this week the Italian parliament approved tough new laws which make illegal immigration punishable by up to four years in jail. Immigrants found guilty of certain crimes face deportation.

Italy has also started a controversial census of Roma which involved the fingerprinting and photographing of all adults and children over 14 years old.

Roma—sometimes referred to as gypsies—are often blamed in Italy for the rising crime rate across the country and in recent weeks camps in Naples and Rome have been targeted in arson attacks. Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister, has tapped into a vein of nationalist sentiment by toughening his government’s stance on immigration.

Minister Maroni said that fingerprinting Roma gypsy children would ensure that those parents who sent their children out to beg instead of school could be traced and punished.

However it emerged yesterday that many Roma have fled the country because of the fingerprinting scheme which is taking place across the country and involves more than 150,000 people.

Massimo Converso, of the Opera Nomadi, a Roma charity, said: “We have received news that several hundred Roma who live in illegal camps have left because of fears over the census.

“The majority are in and around the city of Rome and they have left the capital and said they will only return once the census has been completed some time in October.

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