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Italy begins mass fingerprinting of Roma minority

[JURIST] The Italian government Thursday began carrying out a controversial plan to fingerprint the country's Roma minority [JURIST news archive], despite fierce criticism [JURIST report] from the international human rights community [COE statement] and Roma advocates [ERRC materials]. The fingerprinting scheme, announced last Thursday by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni [OECD profile], involves recording the fingerprints of thousands of Roma, including children, ostensibly to reduce street crime and begging. According to some reports, the Italian Interior Ministry has said that fingerprints will not be taken from any Roma who has Italian or EU documentation. The plan has been condemned as constituting "ethnic cataloguing" [EUobserver.com report]. AP has more.

Vincenzo Spadafora, head of UNICEF in Italy [official website], said UNICEF was "deeply concerned" by the proposal, commenting that "[i]f this is being brought in to protect the rights of Roma children, Italian children should also be fingerprinted to protect them as well." On Monday, the Italian Court of Cassation released a ruling [JURIST report] overturning the convictions of six Italians, including Verona Mayor Flavio Tosi, for distributing anti-Roma literature in 2001 in a move some speculated was timed to bolster the fingerprinting plan. In November 2005, the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) [advocacy website] reported that Roma minorities are the ethnic group most susceptible to racism in the European Union [JURIST report]. A spokesman for an Italian NGO opposed to fingerprinting said Thursday that life expectancy for Roma living in Italy is already under 60 [AKI report].

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