The Italian prime minister's comments come after far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini announced plans for a Roma census. Salvini defended the census and tried to shift the focus to the protection of Roma children.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday criticized Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's plans to create a Roma "register."
"No one is planning to create files or conduct a census on the basis of ethnicity, which would be unconstitutional because it is clearly discriminatory," Conte said in a statement Tuesday.
Read more: Forgotten victims of Hungary's Roma murders
Conte also called for checks to ensure Roma children had access to school services, as "they are often kept out of compulsory education courses."
Salvini, who also serves as deputy prime minister, announced his intentions of carrying out a Roma census during a television question-and-answer session on regional television channel TeleLombardia on Monday.
The far-right League party leader said the census would mean Roma who were in the country illegally could be deported, but "as for the Italian Roma, unfortunately, one has to keep them at home."
Salvini defends census plans
Following criticism from Conte and a number of opposition MPs who labelled the register "racist" and "fascist," Salvini defended his proposal.
"I'm not giving up and I'm pushing ahead! The Italians and their safety first," Salvini tweeted.
Read more: Behind the scenes - Gönna Ketels on #WhoAmI
Salvini attempted to further explain the reasons for the census. "It is not our intention to record or take anyone's fingerprints," he said, according to a statement from his far-right League party.
"Our goal is a recognition of the situation of Roma camps. We intend to protect thousands of children who are not allowed to attend school regularly," the statement continued.
Salvini already caused controversy this month when he refused a charity-operated rescue ship carrying 630 mostly African migrantsto dock in Italy.
'Yesterday refugees, today the Roma'
The European Commission on Tuesday warned Salvini that Italy cannot expel foreign EU citizens based on the grounds of their ethnicity.
"The general rule is that it is not legal to expel a European citizen on an ethnic basis, on ethnic criteria. That is absolutely clear," Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said.
Fellow Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who is the leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement that makes up the coalition alongside Salvini's League, also said any census based on ethnicity would be "unconstitutional."
Salvini's move also drew condemnation from opposition MPs, including members of Italian opposition center-left Democratic Party (PD).
"Yesterday refugees, today the Roma, tomorrow guns for everyone. It must be tiring being nasty," former premier Paolo Gentiloni tweeted on Monday.
The PD's current leader Matteo Orfini tweeted: "If we really want to carry out the census, I would start with the census of racists and fascists. To better avoid them."
law/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)