Fans of the Roman soccer club Lazio are infamous for expressing racist taunts during games, on banners and in chants and songs. But last weekend when they cursed Romanian striker Adrian Mutu from the visiting Fiorentina side, calling him a “gypsy,” it represented more than just a crude attempt at gamesmanship.
In late October, Italian police arrested Nicolae Romulus Mailat, a Romanian citizen and ethnic Roma—gypsy—in an illegal shantytown on the outskirts of Rome and charged him with the murder of an Italian woman. It was the latest in a series of violent crimes in Italy allegedly committed by Romanian immigrants, and it catalyzed growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the country. Since Romania’s admission to the EU earlier this year, a huge number of its citizens have moved to Italy looking for work. They’re blamed for a disproportionate amount of the country’s violent crime—Rome’s mayor blames 75 per cent of the murders, rapes and robberies in his city this year on Romanians—and the Mailat case seems to have been a breaking point.
Last week, the Italian government passed a decree allowing for the expulsion of EU citizens whom authorities consider to be security threats. Dozens of Romanian citizens have already been rounded up by police and deported. There have been reports of attacks against members of the Romanian commun-
ity, and on Sunday, opposition leader and former PM Silvio Berlusconi called for an immediate ban on Romanian workers trying to enter Italy. Romanian Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu has moved quickly for a meeting with his Italian counterpart Romano Prodi to discuss the situation, even as President Traian Basescu warned, “The Romanian state will not accept the humiliation of hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people.” M
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