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Italy's far-right Salvini moves to clear 'illegal' Roma camps

The Council of Europe estimates there are between 120,000 and 180,000 Roma, Sinti and Caminanti in Italy -- one of the lowest concentrations in Europe
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Rome (AFP)

Italy's anti-immigrant interior minister Matteo Salvini ordered a report Tuesday on the country's Roma population, with a view to shuttering overcrowded, "illegal" camps.

The head of the far-right League ordered the country's regional prefects to draw up "a report on the presence of Roma, Sinti and Caminanti" within two weeks, the interior ministry said in a statement.

"The aim is to verify the presence of illegal camps to draw up an eviction plan," it said.

The Roma, Sinti and Caminanti are traditionally nomadic ethnic groups that have lived in Europe for centuries.

The Sinti are traditionally from west and central Europe, while Roma have their origins in the east and southeast of the continent. The Caminanti are the smallest group, at about three percent.

The Council of Europe estimates there are between 120,000 and 180,000 Roma, Sinti and Caminanti in Italy -- one of the lowest concentrations in Europe.

Over half are Italian citizens with regular jobs and homes, but hate crimes against those less fortunate are rife.

A report by the Pro-Roma group Associazione 21 Luglio in 2017 said 26,000 Roma, Sinti and Caminanti were living in emergency housing or camps in Italy.

Threats against them have increased under the far-right, nationalist interior minister, who sparked controversy last year with his call for a new census of Roma, and for all non-Italians among them to be expelled from the country.

Salvini has also sought to bar Italy's ports to charity vessels rescuing migrants at sea.

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