La vita italiana: integrazione, o no?

Just bought a car recently. (I’ve already mentioned my car in an earlier post – apologies bike-lovers!). Anyway, we’re getting rid of the clapped out left-hand drive Italian one (pictured) that we’ve been knocking about in for the last few years.

The battered macchina was always better inside than out – ie dirty and dented outside, actually quite nice inside. Ok, so when we went around in it in Italy we’d have that usual traffic light experience of the windscreen washers super-quickly jumping out and washing our grimy windscreen.

I quite liked it. Got a clean windscreen and I (kind of) felt okay about giving some change to the cleaners. In Italy the washers are quite often Roma, dark-skinned and poor-looking. It’s a definite feature of life in Italy. Poor-looking Roma people on the metropolitana (the underground), poor-looking Roma people asking for money outside churches.

Right – so I’m steering this around to human rights! There’s a big piece in today’s Independent about how the Italian authorities are planning to fingerprint Roma people. All of them. BalkanInsight has also got a good report on the controversy that this has already created.

Why do they want to do it? Well, it’s a response to what politicians in Italy are grandly calling the “security emergency” ("emergenza di sicurezza") and also, the authorities have let it be known, to stop begging. That’s right, they’re going to create police files for thousands and thousands of Roma, including children, just in case. 

If that looks a tiny bit … well, discriminatory, la polizia italiana apparently don’t seem to mind. Add a small dose of publicity to all of this (and it’s already getting that), and I reckon you’re well on the way to stigmatising a whole community and stirring up fear and hatred towards some of the country’s most vulnerable people.

It’s part of a pattern – I’ve blogged on the recent Napoli anti-Roma backlash before, and it’s without doubt a very dangerous route for Italy to be heading down.

My suggestion for the Italian authorities?

Scrap these ridiculous plans and order in a few dozen DVDs of Emir Kusterica’s brilliant “Time of the Gypsies”. Rather than discriminatory new policies, a bit of respect and sympathy for a whole people (good and bad) might go a long way.

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