Italy: Gypsy children to be fingerprinted in Rome

Rome, 2 July (AKI) - Thousands of Roma Gypsy children and adults will be fingerprinted from Sunday in the Italian capital, Rome, despite strong criticism from European and religious organisations.

The Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, is reported to have proposed that all Roma, including children, living in camps throughout Italy should be fingerprinted.

Maroni was expected to reveal details in the lower house of Parliament on Wednesday about the fingerprinting of minors in Roma camps.

The fingerprinting and identification process will be coordinated with the Red Cross and 'cultural mediators' and the Roma will receive a sanitary card, allowing them access to Italy's social and health services.

The card is expected to indicate whether they suffer from any communicable disease, if they take medications and if they have had all their vaccinations.

Gypsy children, whose parents keep them out of school and send them to beg on the streets would lose custody of their children, under the plan announced by Maroni.

The Italian branch of the United Nations' Children's Fund expressed "surprise and grave concern" at the government's move of fingerprinting. The human rights' watchdog, the Council of Europe, also strenuously opposed the plan.

Meanwhile, a European Union survey of 27,000 people released in Brussels on Wednesday, said that 47 percent of Italians would feel "uncomfortable" having a Roma Gypsy as a neighbour.

It was the same figure recorded in the Czech Republic and the highest among the 27 EU countries..

Of the 150,000 Roma Gypsies who live in Italy, about 70,000 have Italian citizenship. Many Roma Gypsies come from Romania.

Tens of thousands of Roma Gypsies have entered Italy in the past few years since Slovakia and Romania joined the EU, and are being blamed by many Italians for much of the recent rise in crime rates.


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