July 16, 2019

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is known for his anti-immigrant stance and his quest to seal Italy's borders amid increased migration, which has culminated in some maritime conflict. But it turns out the League Party leader isn't just trying to prevent people from entering the country.

Salvini on Tuesday ordered local authorities to map out settlements where traditionally nomadic ethnic communities, including Roma and Sinti people, are living in the country. The order was drawn up to "prepare a plan of clearances" of their camps, despite the fact that the marginalized communities have lived throughout Europe for centuries and many are Italian citizens. But a coalition between Salvini's League party and Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio's Five Star Movement agreed last May to close the camps.

Di Maio initially backtracked on the agreement, The Financial Times reports, because he maintained that Salvini's past threats to carry out an ethnically-based census of the Roma minority was unconstitutional. Instead, he argued, all illegal camps should be razed.

Salvini has also called for non-Italians found among the communities to be rounded up and sent back to their countries of origin. Despite the harsh rhetoric, FT writes that Salvini's anti-Roma stance is likely to play in his favor politically. Hate crimes and prejudice against Roma, Sinti, and other communities remain major issues in contemporary Italy, and experts say the newest development will likely stoke even more fear.

"When the bulldozers raze each camp it will have a huge social an economic cost," said Dijana Pavlovic, a spokesman for travelers' rights groups Kovimento Kethane Rom and Sinti per l'Italia. "It will not make the lives of normal Italians better but will only create more insecurity and fear."

Read more about Salvini here at The Week. Tim O'Donnell

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