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20th Aug 2022

Italy rejects accusations of racism from EU assembly

  • Italy dismissed accusation of racism for its plans to fingerprint Roma children (Photo: Amnesty International)

Italy has rejected criticism by the European Parliament of the country's move to fingerprint Roma people, including children.

MEPs on Thursday (10 July) adopted a resolution calling the practise discriminatory and against EU rules. Meanwhile, Rome is defending its actions as a mechanism to protect Roma children from abuse.

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The statement was adopted with 336 votes in favour, 220 against and 77 abstentions. Pushed by the left-leaning and centrist political groups, the Greens and Liberals, the resolution was opposed mainly by centre-right MEPs, who argued Rome should be given a chance to explain its policy.

Several deputies brought up the issue during a debate with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, urging him to press Italy's right-wing leadership to shelve the controversial measures.

German deputy Martin Schultz, chairperson of the Socialist group in the parliament, called the fingerprinting of Roma people a "serious breach of fundamental rights in Europe". He demanded of Mr Sarkozy: "Can I ask you to appeal to curb the government of Silvio Berlusconi and remind him that this is against the rule of law."

But the French leader repeatedly refused to "give lessons" to his Italian counterpart, arguing that it was not he who had voted Silvio Berlusconi in power.

In their resolution, MEPs referred to recent Eurobarometer surveys that report that Roma are one of the main targets of racism and discrimination in some European countries. They also highlighted incidents involving attacks and aggression against Roma in Italy and Hungary.

They expressed concern that a 12-month "state of emergency" could be justified in Italy by the presence of Romany camps, and urged the EU executive to check whether the Italian measures comply with the bloc's law.

But Roberto Maroni, the Italian interior minister from the anti-immigration Northern League, dismissed such suggestions, arguing Rome is trying to rescue children stolen from other countries and that the fingerprinting is to be carried out only in illegal camps in Rome, Milan and Naples and only of people without documents.

The Council of Europe estimates Italy's roma population as between 90,000 and 110,000.

UNICEF, the UN organisation for children rights, recently expressed "shock and deep concern" and called the Italian proposal "provocative".

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