In recent weeks, Romany people in Italy have been subjected to police registration, by means such as fingerprinting, and to forcible rehousing. The Italian government claims this is part of their efforts to control immigration but the actions smack of racism and are a gross violation of basic human rights.
In May 2008 rumours of an abduction of a baby girl by a Gypsy woman in Naples led to an outbreak of racist violence against Roma camps. The response by Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni to this was “that is what happens when gypsies steal babies”.
That this can happen in Europe in the 21st century, 53 years after the defeat of Nazism and Italian fascism is extremely worrying. On 10th July the European Parliament called the fingerprinting of Gypsies in Italy a clear act of racial discrimination and urged the authorities to stop it. The EU assembly said the measure is not supported by EU human rights treaties and that EU citizens of Roma, or Gypsy, origin must not be treated differently from others in Italy, who are not required to submit their fingerprints.
In Austria, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors and reports on the human rights situation in its 56 participating states, including Italy, also expressed serious reservations about Italy's handling of Gypsies.
The Roma suffered greatly in the Holocaust and I worry that the relative apathy towards the actions of the Italian Government, let alone to far right parties and those with far right sympathies across Europe, will give the far right more confidence to undertake more extreme actions that recall terrible memories of the 1930s and 40s. As history shows, if people and nations remain silent bystanders then fascism can take root and I think that a hard stand is required.
I am well aware that Italy, like many countries in Europe, is concerned about immigration, crime and so on, but am also keenly aware that treating the Roma as second class citizens is not an answer and is a fall-back to the less glorious days of Europe's recent history.
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Two young sisters drowned on a popular beach near Naples, Italy last month. As their corpses lay on the beach people continued to sunbathe and picnic, ignoring them, according to eyewitnesses. The girls were Roma, Europe's hidden people. They and their family had been forced to give their fingerprints to police.
The fingerprinting of all Romanies is comparable to Nazi registration of Jewish and Romany people in the 1930s. Half a million Roma died in the Holocaust and many more were driven from the countries they had sought refuge in.
Today, the Italian authorities are registering and forcibly rehousing all Romanies. The UN, the European Parliament, Amnesty International and many others have condemned these actions as unacceptable infringements of human rights and human dignity.
We, the undersigned, call on the European Parliament to halt such treatment of the Roma and to accord them equal rights and opportunities throughout the E.U.
The Help stop the persecution of the Roma people petition to The European Parliament was written by Peter Hudson and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.