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Italy Starts Fingerprinting the Roma

PUBLISHED: July 10, 2008

In a startling development, the Washington Post reported last week that the Italian government “have started fingerprinting tens of thousands of Gypsies living in nomad camps across the country”:

The measure by Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government, part of the government’s crackdown on street crime, has provoked a storm of protests at home and abroad. Officials have spoken recently of a “Roma emergency” in Italy’s big cities, blaming them for rising crime.

[Interior Minister Roberto] Maroni, a leading member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, said the census will be completed in October. Critics, including the center-left opposition, claim the measure is not a census and is unfairly singling out a minority. Italy has an overall population census every ten years that does not include fingerprinting.

In our Summer issue, Dimiter Kenarov profiles the Roma living in Bulgaria:

I ask Stoyan what is the biggest problem that Bulgarian Roma face. “You can’t define just one single problem because everything is related to everything else,” he says. His Bulgarian is flawless, without a whiff of the accent usually associated with Roma—rowdy vowels amid crowded consonants. “The problem of segregation begins at birth and ends only with death. Romani women deliver their babies in a segregated maternity ward. Romani children attend segregated schools. They live in a segregated neighborhood. The Bulgarian government simply has no need for well-educated, intelligent Roma.” He speaks carefully, methodically. “Out of twenty thousand who live in Nadezhda less than one-tenth are literate. We have no more than twenty people with a high-school diploma. That’s one in a thousand. Out of twenty thousand residents we only have four with a college degree. We live in the Stone Age here in Nadezhda. What is there to change?”

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