When I visited Eastern Europe about a decade ago, I was shocked at how much outspoken prejudice there was against the Gypsies. And I was shocked today to read in the Guardian:
Last week, Silvio Berlusconi’s new rightwing Italian administration announced plans to carry out a national registration of all the country’s estimated 150,000 Gypsies – Roma and Sinti people – whether Italian-born or migrants. Interior minister and leading light of the xenophobic Northern League, Roberto Maroni, insisted that taking fingerprints of all Roma, including children, was needed to “prevent begging” and, if necessary, remove the children from their parents.
The ethnic fingerprinting drive is part of a broader crackdown on Italy’s three-and-a-half million migrants, most of them legal, carried out in an atmosphere of increasingly hysterical rhetoric about crime and security.
The European parliament has asked Italy to stop doing this. Guardian columnist Seamus Milne suggests anti-migrant hysteria in Europe may be at the root of this. Not that the U.S., or my home state of Arizona, where “crime sweep” publicity stunts target undocumented immigrants and stepped-up enforcement separates kids from parents, is exactly immune from xenophobia.