Populist Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has promised to close the 148 illegal Roma squatter camps dotted across the country, saying he will clear them all within the next five years.
Mr Salvini made the announcement this week at the Palazzo Chigi, explaining that he kept out any specific reference to the Roma people in his recent migration and security decree, Il Giornale reports.
“Within the provision passed there are no specific measures on the Roma, otherwise the uproar would have broken out,” the interior minister said.
According to reports, around 28,000 Roma currently live in Italy with half living in Lazio and Lombardy. In Rome alone, there are believed to be as many as 7,000 Roma who have moved to the city.
“We are working with all the mayors of Italy,” Salvini said and added: “The goal is to close the Roma camps.”
Some estimate there to be 148 Roma squatter camps across Italy, including one in Rome that was evacuated over the summer.
On International Roma Day, Italian Populist Leader Says Roma Should ‘Work Harder’ and ‘Steal Less’ https://t.co/GVrF0Z1aIm
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Salvini’s policy toward the Roma people has earned him ire from the international political establishment in the past when he advocated the idea of conducting a census of Roma people in the country.
Before taking on the position of interior minister, the populist League leader caused controversy over comments he made on social media on International Roma Day earlier this year.
“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,” he said.
Crimes committed by Roma have also come to Salvini’s attention in recent months including a robbery in which a Roma mother of 12 children used a baby as a distraction while she stole the entire monthly pension of a senior Italian woman in August.
In reaction to the crime, which was caught on video, Salvini said: “In Italy, there is no room for criminals like that.”