Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s new right-wing Cabinet, at its first meeting in Naples on Wednesday, endorsed a package of tough measures aimed at Gypsies and clandestine immigrants.
In a move that appeared certain to cause controversy, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said local authorities would be empowered to check on the living conditions of citizens from other EU nations before granting them right of residence.
The measure appeared to be aimed at Roma living in encampments, and particularly at the estimated 50,000 Romanian Gypsies who have entered Italy in recent years and who are being blamed for much of the rise in crime.
The Cabinet also decided to make unauthorized entry into Italy a crime. The measures will make it easier to expel foreigners, including EU citizens, who are convicted of offences, a move that could bring the government into conflict with Brussels if it is judged to breach European law on freedom of movement within the EU.
In addition, the Cabinet agreed to the confiscation of property let to illegal immigrants, a rule that could have instant and drastic effects on hundreds of thousands of foreigners known to be living in Italy without the right papers.
Adults who force children to beg will face imprisonment.
Introducing the package, Berlusconi said it was intended to assure “the right of Italians not to be afraid — a fundamental right that the state must guarantee.”
Berlusconi’s government also endorsed moves designed to tackle the piles of rubbish that have built up in Naples, the reason why the inaugural Cabinet session was held in the city. The move includes the appointment of a junior minister to tackle the crisis and the opening of eight new dumps.
As the Cabinet met, there were chaotic scenes across Naples as pressure groups seized the opportunity to publicize their grievances.