Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is what you'd call a renaissance bigot: He's equally comfortable refusing safe harbor to migrants in desperate need of medical care as he is whipping off statements about the left wanting to keep migrants in his country to use as slave labor. Looking for ways to push a cultural minority out of his country? He's all over that shit, too. Earlier this week, Salvini said that he would order a census of the Roma people currently living in Italy and expel those without residence permits. When asked about naturalized Roma residing in Italy, he answered, classy fucker that he is "…and Italian Roma? Unfortunately, we have to keep them."
Originating in South Asia, the Roma, migrated to Europe hundreds of years ago. While some have integrated into the societies where they live, most live a nomadic lifestyle and keep their own customs. Having suffered generations of brutal discrimination, these itinerant communities tend to shun the communities and cities that they live near, in favor of keeping themselves to themselves, for safety's sake. This preference towards exclusivist living in the name of safety has led to many ugly stereotypes over the years: that Roma are all criminals, don't pay taxes, and are a plague on a productive society. Such false claims were used by the Nazis as an excuse to herd Roma into concentration camps. These same excuses have been used more recently to create areas of segregation where Roma are permitted to set up camp – often far from essential services such as schools and medical aid.
From the New York Times:
Reaction was immediate. Luigi Di Maio — leader of the Five Star Movement, coalition partner of Mr. Salvini's far-right League party — said that a census on an ethnic basis was not constitutional, so "we can't do it."
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in Berlin to meet with his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, was infuriated by Mr. Salvini's remarks and said that the interior minister "had gone too far," according to Italian news reports. The prime minister did not comment publicly.
The proposal for the census evoked distant but still-bitter memories of the racial laws against Jews and the Roma, instituted by Mussolini's government 80 years ago.
As with everything that falls out of a fascist's bigoted cakehole, What Salvini wants is, of course, nothing but hateful bullshit.
According to Carlo Stasolla, the president of a group working to stop the marginalization of the Roma in Italy, one in seven Roma pay their taxes, which, considering how much most people are loathe to do so, seems like a pretty high percentage, to me. Additionally, despite Salvini's mewling, there's no one to kick out: 50% of Italy's Roma population are Italian citizens. The largest percentage of the remainder came to the country from the former Yugoslavia and are considered stateless. Those folks can't be expelled. Stragglers who live their lives under the radar? Yeah, they're totally going to take part in a census.
All that Salvini is doing with this rhetoric is stoking hate for a viable "other": a group that can take the fall for the woes Italian society is currently facing. Just as with America, and many other nations, those problems include unemployment, poverty and crime. It's easy to stack the blame for state failures like these on the doorstep of minority groups too scared or small to defend themselves.
It's something that'll sound far more familiar to North Americans than it should.