Italian judicial authorities have opened a probe after around 200 Rome residents and neo-fascists torched bins and shouted racist abuse at Roma families being temporarily housed in their neighborhood. The situation in Torre Maura, east of Rome, degenerated on Tuesday night when around 70 Roma, including 30 children, were brought to be housed in a municipal building before being found a permanent home. Some residents took to the streets to protest and were rapidly joined by activists from the neo-fascist groups CasaPound and Forza Nuova. Many shouted at the Roma and made Nazi salutes during protests, as reported by local media.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has called for a census of Italy's Roma population and police closed a Roma camp in the capital last June in defiance of an EU ruling. This summer, a Roma boy child was shot with an air gun in Rome and left paralyzed. Salvini on Wednesday pledged that all Roma camps would be closed by the end of his mandate as minister. He rejected violence but at the same time criticized city officials for pushing the Roma to the city's periphery. "Whoever integrates is welcome," Salvini said. "Who prefers to steal will be sent elsewhere."
Many in Italy's sizable Roma community are Italian citizens but they still frequently face hostility if not outright discrimination. Nonprofit organization Associazione 21 Luglio estimates there are between 120,000 and 180,000 Roma, Sinti and traveler people in Italy, of whom roughly 16,400 live in formally recognized camps. Of the camp residents, 43 percent are Italian citizens, while the rest come from ex-Yugoslav countries, around 3,000 of whom are stateless. The Roma, also known as "Gypsies" or "Travelers," are an ethnic minority in Europe that often experience prejudice and social exclusion. Amid calls on its 28 member states to better integrate the bloc's estimated 6 million Roma, national integration policies seem to be falling short. Millions of citizens in the EU battle discrimination and poverty from birth because they are Roma, according to a November 2016 EU report on fundamental rights. The European Union has put an emphasis on improving Roma lives after centuries of discrimination, which culminated in the Holocaust, which led to the deaths of about 500,000 Roma in addition to the up to 6 million Jews killed.
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