ROME — He has compared the European Union to the Titanic, accused the left of supporting immigration to supply slave labor, and insulted migrants using any number of disparaging epithets. But Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, went too far even for his allies this week when he announced that he would conduct a census of Roma people in Italy, a prelude to expelling those without valid residence permits.
“And Italian Roma ? Unfortunately, we have to keep them,” Mr. Salvini said on Monday during an interview on a regional television station.
On Tuesday, he dug in his heels. “ ‘Census’ of Roma and control of public funds. If the left proposes it, it’s fine, if I propose it, it’s RACISM,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I’m not backing down, and am going forward. Italians first and their security.”
Reaction was immediate. Luigi Di Maio — leader of the Five Star Movement, coalition partner of Mr. Salvini’s far-right League party — said that a census on an ethnic basis was not constitutional, so “we can’t do it.”
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