That policy has been condemned by the European Parliament, by Romania, where many Roma come from, and by religious groups, who have compared it to the tagging of Jews by Nazis.
A parliamentary committee agreed late on Wednesday that from 2010 all identity cards, which Italians already have to carry, should include the fingerprints of the bearer. The measure still has to pass through parliament.
“It will defuse the Roma question, [fingerprints] will be taken from everyone,” opposition deputy Antonio Misani was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera newspaper’s website.
Conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi won a landslide at the election on a promise to get tough on crime which many Italians blame on immigrants.
Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, a member of the staunchly anti-immigrant Northern League party, is pushing the measure to fingerprint people in Roma camps. He said only people who cannot provide valid identification will be fingerprinted.
Berlusconi has defended the policy, saying it would help the state clean up Roma camps, which are often squalid shanty towns on the outskirts of major cities. There are about 140,000 Roma in Italy, where they are known as “nomads“.