Italy's right-wing populist Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, has prompted a new outcry by saying he wants a census of the Roma community that would lead to non-Italians being deported.
After a chorus of criticism he said his only aim was to protect Roma children.
There are at least 130,000 Roma (Gypsies) in Italy, and many live in unlicensed camps on city outskirts.
Last week Mr Salvini refused to allow a charity ship carrying 629 migrants into Italy.
He has tried to limit the number of migrants entering Italy by blocking charity ships that rescue people off the Libyan coast. The Aquarius eventually arrived in the Spanish port of Valencia at the weekend.
Since Mr Salvini's League party came to power this month with the anti-establishment Five Star movement, he has focused heavily on immigration.
His remarks on Roma were eventually rebutted by his fellow deputy prime minister and leader of Five Star, Luigi di Maio, who made clear that a census was unconstitutional.
United Nations human rights official Birgit Van Hout condemned Mr Salvini's comments.
"One does not stop to be a human being because one is born outside the European Union, and therefore everybody is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect," Ms Van Hout told the BBC.
The interior minister told a local TV channel those Roma who had no right to stay in Italy would be deported but "as for the Italian Roma, unfortunately you have to keep them at home".
Italy's new populist government has as part of its programme a plan to deport 500,000 migrants.
Who are Italy's Roma?
They number between 130,000 and 170,000 and around half have Italian citizenship. Many come from Romania and the former Yugoslavia.