Italy said on Saturday it had expelled 38 Egyptians as part of a crackdown ordered by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government on illegal immigration.
In a statement, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, said he was pleased at the expulsion of the Egyptian immigrants, who were flown to Cairo aboard a chartered plane.
Maroni also defended his plans to fingerprint Roma children. Roma people, known in Italy as "nomads", are blamed for much of the crime in Italian cities.
"We don't know who lives in legal (nomadic) camps let alone the illegal ones. We don't know the nationalities of the residents so we have to do a census," Maroni told the newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Berlusconi took office in May pledging tough measures to stem illegal immigration, including legislation to make the act of crossing into Italy illegally itself an offence punishable by imprisonment.
Some immigrants seeking residency in Italy are fingerprinted already, but not usually children or European Union citizens.
The Catholic charity Fondazione Migrantes, which is linked to the Italian bishops' conference, questioned why Roma people were being singled out.
"It incomprehensible why fingerprints are being taken solely from minors from this tiny ethnic minority," it was quoted as saying by Italian news agencies.
"All of this will not reduce fear and give peace to our people, but set the stage for unearthing a type of xenophobia, or worse, of racial discrimination."
Last Mod: 29 Haziran 2008, 13:44