On International Roma Day, Italian populist Lega leader and top candidate to be Italy’s next Prime Minister Matteo Salvini took to Twitter to say that Roma people would succeed in society if they “worked harder” and “stole less”.
Salvini made the comments on Sunday, writing on Twitter: “Today is the International Day of Roma, Sinti and Caminanti. If many of them worked more and stole less, if many of them sent their children to school instead of teaching them to steal, then it really would be something to celebrate.”
The comments were contrasted by Pope Francis who said to a crowd gathered outside of St. Peter’s Basilica he hoped the day would promote “goodwill of getting to know one another”.
“This is the path which leads to true integration,” he added.
Last month, Pope Francis made headlines following the Italian national election in which Salvini and the Lega placed first alongside their centre-right coalition partners, denouncing anti-mass migration rhetoric.
“Fears often focus on the foreigner, the one who is different from us, poor, as if he were an enemy,” the Pope said and added: “People even draft plans for the development of nations based on the fight against these people. And then we defend ourselves from these people, thinking that in this way we preserve what we have or who we are.”
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) January 20, 2018
Matteo Salvini has been one of the most vocal critics of mass migration in Italy, promising to secure the borders and deport up to 500,000 illegal migrants from the country during the election campaign.
While Salvini and the centre-right coalition came first in the election, they did not receive the needed 40 per cent vote to govern and as a result, Salvini has gone to the bargaining table with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
Initially, Salvini claimed he would not work with the Five Star Movement and its leader Luigi Di Maio, but the populist leader has become more open to dialogue in recent weeks.
As recent polling shows, Lega and Salvini passing the establishment Democratic Party (PD), talks have stalled with M5S which has rejected the participation of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a key ally of Salvini in the centre-right coalition, in a new government.
Another recent poll has shown Salvini to be the most popular party leader in the country with a 40 per cent approval rating, ahead of Di Maio.
Italy, SWG Poll:
Party leader approval
Salvini (LEGA-ENF): 40%
Di Maio (M5S-EFDD): 35%
Meloni (FdI-*): 22%
Berlusconi (FI-EPP): 17%
Martina (PD-S&D): 17%
Grasso (LeU-S&D): 6%
— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) April 6, 2018