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9th Dec 2018

Italy to raise EU citizen expulsion policy at September meeting

  • A beggar on the streets of Venice. The Italian remarks come hot on the heels of Roma expulsions in France (Photo: .craig)

Italy has said it intends to expel citizens from other EU states if they are not able to support themselves, in a move apparently inspired by France's current crackdown on Roma.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told daily newspaper Corriere della Sera on Saturday (21 August) that French president Nicolas Sarkozy - whose recent actions include closing down Roma camps and deporting around 200 Roma to date - is "right."

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The minister, from the anti-immigrant Northern League Party, said that "if anything, it's time to go a step further" and referred to the mandatory expulsion of EU citizens who do not meet certain criteria.

"Yes, expulsions just like those for illegal immigrants, not assisted or voluntary repatriations. Of course only for those who violate rules on requirements for living in another member state: a minimum level of income, adequate housing and not being a burden on the social welfare system of the country hosting them."

"Many Roma are EU citizens but do not respect any of these requirements," he said. But added, when asked if this would be discriminatory, that the policy should apply to all EU citizens and not just Roma.

"If anything, the problem is something else: unlike in France, many Roma and Sinti here have Italian citizenship. They have the right to remain here. Nothing can be done."

Mr Maroni admitted that previous attempt by Rome to go in this direction were shot down by the European Commission but said he intends to re-raise the issue of automatic expulsions at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Paris on 6 September.

In 2008, the commission threatened Italy with legal action if it went ahead with a decree allowing the expulsion of other EU citizens facing two years of jail. It gave its blessing to a controversial proposal by Italy to fingerprint Roma, however.

Some in Italy have suggested there is a discrepancy between the relatively strong reaction by Brussels to Italy two years ago compared with its muted response to Mr Sarkozy's policy towards the Roma community.

According to Mr Maroni this is due to an old "prejudice" whereby a policy carried out by a minister from the Northern League, a junior coalition partner in Rome's right-wing government, is assumed to "violate human rights."

France

Mr Sarkozy's government deported around 10,000 Roma to Romania and Bulgaria last year but the current raids against against a planned total of 300 Roma camps come after the French president for the first time expressly linked immigration and crime.

The European Commission, for its part, has said it is monitoring the situation in France noting that any deportation decisions must be proportionate and carried out on a case-by-case basis, with human rights watchdogs already questioning whether these criteria are being fulfilled.

Meanwhile, critics of Mr Sarkozy's policy have suggested that the Roma will simply return as soon as they are able.

They also suggest that Paris is contributing to a vicious circle due to its decision to maintain until 2014 rules restricting access to the labour market to nationals from Bulgaria and Romania - where the majority of Roma come from - and with it a means of supporting themselves.

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