ITALIAN society has been rocked by photos showing sunbathers relaxing on a beach next to the bodies of two drowned girls.
CNN reports the two girls, Violetta, 12, and Cristina, 13, had been swimming with two friends at Torregaveta beach, west of Naples, on Saturday when they got into trouble.
Photographs published around the world show their bodies laid out on the beach under towels while sunbathers sit close by.
The photographer told CNN the mood among sunbathers was one of indifference towards the girls, who were Roma gypsies - a disliked minority in Italy.
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One witness told The Daily Mail: "Their bodies were left on the beach for an hour before being collected, just covered by a beach towel while people just got back to sunbathing and playing football. It was very surreal. There was this picture of a typical Italian beach with families enjoying the sun and then just metres away were the bodies of these two children. People were completely indifferent about what had happened".
The Guardian reports Italy is gripped by anti-Gypsy feeling.
“Since coming to office in May, Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing Government has appointed three special commissioners to deal with the Roma in each of Italy's three biggest cities - Naples, Milan and Rome. It has also ordered the fingerprinting of the country's Gypsy population, including minors, who make up more than half of the estimated 150,000 Roma in Italy,” it said.
The newspaper quoted a survey showing 68 per cent of Italians want the Roma expelled, regardless of whether they hold Italian passports. Many Italians are openly hostile towards the Roma, accusing them of choosing crime over legitimate employment, and living in illegal camps instead of joining mainstream Italian society.
The British broadsheet quotes Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which also expressed astonishment at the behaviour of those on the beach: "While the lifeless bodies of the girls were still on the sand, there were those who carried on sunbathing or having lunch just a few metres away.”