Two dead girls, cousins named Violetta and Cristina aged 12 and 13, lay on a beach surrounded by sunbathers in bikinis and swimming trunks. A photographer who took photos at the scene told reporters the mood among sunbathers had been one of indifference. Recent weeks have seen heightened tensions between Italian authorities and the country's Roma minority amid a crackdown by Silvo Berlusconi's government targeting illegal immigrants and talk by government officials of a "Roma emergency" that has seen the 150,000-strong migrant group blamed for rising street crime.
In a statement published on its Web site, the Italian civil liberties group 'EveryOne' said Saturday's drowning had occurred in an atmosphere of "racism and horror" and cast doubt on the reported version of events, suggesting that it appeared unusual for the four girls to wade into the sea, apparently casting modesty aside and despite being unable to swim.
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Two young sisters drowned on a popular beach near Naples, Italy last month. As their corpses lay on the beach people continued to sunbathe and picnic, ignoring them, according to eyewitnesses. The girls were Roma, Europe's hidden people. They and their family had been forced to give their fingerprints to police.
The fingerprinting of all Romanies is comparable to Nazi registration of Jewish and Romany people in the 1930s. Half a million Roma died in the Holocaust and many more were driven from the countries they had sought refuge in.
Today, the Italian authorities are registering and forcibly rehousing all Romanies. The UN, the European Parliament, Amnesty International and many others have condemned these actions as unacceptable infringements of human rights and human dignity.
We, the undersigned, call on the European Parliament to halt such treatment of the Roma and to accord them equal rights and opportunities throughout the E.U.