Feature

Behind the crackdown on the Roma

Italians have finally lost patience with the half-million migrants from Romania who now live among them, said Julius M

Italians have finally lost patience with the half-million migrants from Romania who now live among them, said Julius Müller-Meiningen in the Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung. And who can blame them? They don’t like the ragged Romanians who pounce on drivers at traffic lights, wielding buckets and sponges. They’re enraged by statistics showing that Romanians are responsible for two-thirds of all car thefts, burglaries, and muggings. Their anger boiled over two weeks ago after a young Romanian Gypsy was arrested for the brutal murder of a 47-year-old woman in Rome. In retaliation, groups of vigilantes went on a Romanian-bashing rampage.

Romano Prodi, the Italian prime minister, has reacted with unseemly haste, said Mario Deaglio in Turin’s La Stampa. A new decree has been passed enabling officials to deport any migrants considered a danger to the state, even if no offense has been committed, and the squalid Gypsy shantytowns on the outskirts of Rome are being torn down. But if anyone thinks expelling Romanians will bring back “joy and tranquility,” they’re wrong. The majority work as builders, cleaners, and care workers, and we’d be stuck without them. And don’t forget that not long ago, Italians from the poor South were similarly treated by affluent northerners: Whenever a nasty crime was committed they became a target.

It’s shocking to behold, said Rome’s Il Manifesto in an editorial. Bewildered Roma families, who have lived here legally for years, are being ordered out of their shacks, their cars seized, their homes razed. It’s even worse to see the witch hunt being led by a progressive like Prodi. He’s doing it for votes, said Daniela Weingartner in Berlin’s Die Tagezeitung. But he’ll end up with egg on his face. No E.U. country has ever expelled en masse citizens of another member state; it violates European treaties. After all, freedom of movement is a cornerstone of the single market.

On the contrary, said Ross Clark in the London Express. E.U. rules allow for the expulsion of migrants who can’t support themselves. Indeed, in July the Irish government repatriated 100 Roma who were begging from their camp on a Dublin roundabout. Brussels had no problem with that, and it has now said that Italy can go ahead, too, provided there is no discrimination against any particular group. But let’s be frank, said Blaise Willa in Paris’ Le Matin: Italy’s decree is aimed at a particular group. It’s not the Romanians whom the Italians want to get rid of, but the old enemy, the Gypsies. They’re considered fair game, which is why there has been no protest about what Italy and Ireland have done. But the Roma are E.U. citizens, too—they deserve better than this. Italy should be ashamed of itself.

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