Italian Jews recall Shoah-era law in blasting plan to register Roma community

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Italian Jews recall Shoah-era law in blasting plan to register Roma community

Country's Jewish community condemned a call by the country’s hardline interior minister to take a census of travellers

Hard-line interior minister Matteo Salvini (centre)
Hard-line interior minister Matteo Salvini (centre)

Italy’s Jewish community condemned a call by the country’s hardline interior minister to take a census of Italy’s Roma, or Gypsy, population.

The Union of Italian Jewish Communities, or UCEI, said in a statement issued Tuesday that the call by Matteo Salvini to create a “registry” of Roma in Italy recalled the anti-Semitic legislation introduced by Italy’s fascist government on the eve of the Holocaust in 1938.

Salvini, who leads the right-wing League Party, told a TV station on Monday that he had asked the ministry to prepare a dossier on the situation of Roma in Italy “in order to see ‘who,’ ‘how,’ and ‘how many.’” His statement drew sharp protest from the center-left opposition. Later, Salvini said he had no intention of “creating files or taking digital fingerprints” of individual Roma.

Salvini’s “announcement of a possible, specific census of the Roma population in Italy worries us and reawakens memories of the racist measures taken just 80 years ago and, sadly, increasingly forgotten,” the UCEI statement said.

Salvini’s party in the March 4 elections scored victories in much of northern Italy with a virulent anti-immigrant platform.

The UCEI statement said there was no “search for consensus, no anxiety about public order that justifies the disturbing proposal to single out specific social categories of citizens, to censor them and subject them to special security policies reserved only for them.”

Board of Deputies of British Jews Senior Vice President  Sheila Gewolb said the organisation: “strongly supports the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, UCEI, in condemning a call by the country’s Minister of Interior, Matteo Salvini, to “register” the Roma community. Any form of legislation infringing upon the rights of national or religious communities and thereby ostracising an already vulnerable minority should have no place in any liberal Western democracy. Unfortunately, this proposed legislation resembles the antisemitic legislation adopted by Italy’s fascist government on the eve of the Shoah.“

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