Current plight of the Gypsy in Italy has strong echoes of Mussolini and Hitler

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The compulsory fingerprinting of Italy's Gypsy population is the latest example of the country's increasingly repressive attitude towards minorities, especially the Roma and Sinti, the Gypsy People and are an ominous reminder of the policies of the former Fascist dictator.

The Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, a leader of the rabble-rousing Northern League – close allies of Silvio Berlusconi on the government benches – has explained his next step in his assault on the "emergenza di sicurezza", the "security emergency": fingerprinting all Gypsies.

It was the only way, he told a parliamentary committee, for Italy to guarantee "to those who have the right to remain here, the possibility of living in decent conditions."

For this purpose the Roma, all Gypsy – those with Italian nationality and those without, EU citizens and those from outside the Community – will all have their fingerprints taken.

And the rule will even apply to Gypsy children – for reasons that to many of Mr Maroni's supporters must have sounded obvious: "to avoid phenomena," as he put it, "such as begging". The new measures, he said, were indispensable "in order to expel those who do not have the right to stay in Italy".

For anybody not swept up in the wave of anti-Roma fury, the campaign has a strong whiff of Mussolini and Hitler about it.

The task of counting and identifying the residents of Italy, citizens or otherwise, who happen to belong the most despised minority in Europe is, in fact, already under way.

Giovanna Boursier, an Italian journalist, found one small camp where the count had already taken place on the furthest southern outskirts of Milan. "There is not even a bar where one could ask the way," she wrote in Il Manifesto, "but once you scramble up a hill you see the roofs of the huts. There are about 10 of them, along with the caravans, dotted around the outskirts, under flyovers and high-tension wires. Around 40 Roma lived here."

In one camp the police arrived at dawn, woke everybody up, surrounded the camp and flooded it with lights and then went from home to home, demanding identity documents and photographing them. All the residents were Italian citizens. It made no difference. "This wasn't a census," protested a Gypsy by the name of Giorgio. "This was an ethnic register."

According to information the police numbers in the big cities have been augmented by up to 3,000 troops for this “security emergency”. All I am seeing here, however, is what I predicted some years back; government operated anti-Gypsy pogroms with unofficial backing of the European Union while on the surface the lawmakers speek out against it.

The basic problem of Roma is widespread in Europe: housing, health, education, employment, political representation... But for a long time in Italy the Roma have been a symbol of something that is unwanted.

The Nazis and the Fascists used the same methods of singling them out in the 1930s. It's not surprising that they are frightened.

I also have to add to that that our People, I am sure, have all the right to be frightened with regards to this ethnic profiling and register that is going on in Italy, and by force. What next and where next is my question.

Some 1.6 million Gypsies died in Germany and elsewhere during the Holocaust, a proportionately greater genocide than that suffered by the Jews.

It is a fact that there were concentration camps for Gypsies in Italy during the Fascist period, and it is also a fact that thousands of Gypsies died in them of hunger, cold and over work. Now Italy is about to repeat the performance, it seems.

Camps have also bee proposed not so long ago for the Romani People of Italy. They were called “solidarity villages” and I am sure, seeing how they help with the fingerprinting and profiling, the Italian Red Cross would certainly help there too.

Time w edid a few things ourselves, methinks.

AVA! Ame Shai!

© M Smith (Veshengro), July 2008