Italian government insists it will fingerprint Roma
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday the government would press ahead with plans to fingerprint ethnic Roma, including children - a move branded as discriminatory by European Union officials, reported dpa.
Frattini - the EU's top justice official before he joined Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's cabinet - was commenting on remarks made Sunday by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, who described critics of the plan as "hypocrites."
"I think Minister Maroni has done well to continue on the path he has outlined," Frattini said. "We are not talking of raids (against Roma communities) or anything of the sort, but a measure to identify those living in our country."
"These things are being done by many other countries in Europe without causing any scandal, and as such, they should also be done here," Frattini added.
The measure, according to Frattini, would serve to protect Roma children, who often live in shanty settlements and are not registered to attend school.
Maroni, who is from the anti-immigration Northern League wants to include the fingerprinting in a security package designed to crack down on illegal immigrants and child beggars, many of whom are ethnic Roma (colloquially known as gypsies).
The plan has drawn widespread criticism including from Catholic and United Nations officials, human rights groups and Italian opposition parties.
Last week a spokesman for the European Commission, the EU executive, said member states singling out an ethnic group for fingerprinting would be breaking EU rules. Surveys suggest many Italians associate the Roma with increasing levels of crime.
Late last year, the previous centre-left government expelled over 200 Romanian nationals with criminal records in the wake of the murder, allegedly by a Roma man of Romanian origin, of a housewife in Rome.