Minister calls late-night stores mostly run by foreigners ‘meeting place for drug deals’
Italy’s far-right interior minister has come under fire for a proposal that would force what he calls “little ethnic shops” to close by 9pm.
Matteo Salvini added the measure to his immigrant-targeting security decree, arguing late-night grocery stores, mostly run by foreigners, are “a meeting place for drug deals and people who raise hell”.
He claimed the initiative was not specifically aimed at foreigners and was merely a way to “limit the abuses of certain shops”.
Thousands of grocery stores across Italy are run by immigrants, mainly people from Bangladesh and India, many of whom bought premises for a low price during the financial crisis.
Mauro Bussoni, the general secretary of Confesercenti, a retail association, said: “You can’t make a law that discriminates some entrepreneurs over others.
“Those who have a commercial activity have rights and duties: the duty to respect rules and the right to remain open, whether the activity is managed by a foreigner or an Italian.”
Carlo Rienzi, the president of Codacons, a consumer association, said it was unfair to “generalise”, while noting shops that stayed open late were essential for people seeking “last-minute” purchases. But he agreed there should be a clampdown on outlets that have “created disorder” or “degraded” historical town centres.
Andrea Marcucci, a politician from the centre-left Democratic party, said imposing curfews was among the premises of “a regime”.
If the proposal became law, an industry source said, it should also apply to Italian-owned outlets, including bars, while security measures must also extend to foreign business owners.
“Some say that Italian people go into their shop late at night and try to extort money from them,” said the source. “But they are too afraid to report such incidents to the police.”
Salvini’s security decree, unveiled in September, includes plans to abolish key protections for immigrants and make it easier for them to be deported.
On Thursday, he reiterated a plan to hire 10,000 more police officers, an initiative funded by money that previously paid for migrant reception and integration projects. Parliament has until mid-November to debate and modify the decree before it becomes law.
Salvini’s latest proposal comes after Luigi Di Maio, his coalition partner, said measures would be introduced by the end of the year to limit Sunday trading in an attempt to preserve family traditions.