Sunday, November 17, 2019

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Article Index

Italy

There were no accurate statistics on the number of Roma in the country. NGOs estimated that between 120,000 and 170,000 Roma, including 75,000 citizens, were concentrated on the fringes of urban areas in the central and southern parts of the country.

During the year the Romani population continued to be subject to some municipal mistreatment, societal discrimination, and violent attacks against

unauthorized camps. Some political discourse continued to contribute to municipal and societal discrimination against the Romani population, especially mob violence and individual attacks targeting Roma.

On December 10, a protest organized by residents of the Vallette suburb in Turin turned violent when some protesters attacked and burned a Romani camp by setting fire to caravans and makeshift shelters that housed approximately 150 Roma. The protest was organized after a 16-year-old girl reported to police that she had been raped by two Roma. The girl stated later to police that her accusations were false and publicly apologized. Amnesty International reported that, the day before the protest, leaflets were circulated inciting the inhabitants of the suburb to "clean up the area where the

settlement was located. Approximately 500 persons took part in the march; of those, approximately 30 were reported to have been involved in the raid against the settlement. There were no injuries since the police had evacuated the area before the protest began.

National and local government officials made racist comments against Roma and other members of minorities during the year. In May then prime minister Berlusconi warned that Milan was at risk of becoming "an Islamic city, a Gypsy town full of camps and besieged by foreigners. The press and NGOs

reported cases of discrimination, particularly in housing and evictions, deportations, and government efforts to remove Romani children from their parents for their protection.

According to the report on September 7 by the COE after the visit on May 26-27 by COE commissioner for human rights Thomas Hammarberg, the state of emergency in force in five regions "provided the bedrock for widespread evictions of Roma and Sinti from settlements throughout the country, often in manners that are at variance with human rights standards. Unauthorized camps lacked electricity, access to water and sanitation, adequate shelter, and pest control. The report attributed the segregation of Roma in camps to the "local and national housing policies which assume Roma to be nomads and which failed "to meet their needs. Evictions had a negative impact on children's right to education.

Amnesty International reported that during March and May authorities conducted 154 targeted evictions in Rome affecting 1,800 Roma. The European Roma Rights Center asserted that these evictions violated international laws and standards under domestic law regulating forced evictions. They charged that Rome municipal authorities did not provide prior notice in advance of the eviction, did not offer proper alternative accommodation, and destroyed personal property during the evictions.

In November the Council of State ruled that the state of emergency was not lawful and constituted discrimination. It stated that there was no evidence of a causal link between the existence of nomadic settlements and the extraordinary and exceptional disruption of order and public security in the affected areas. Despite the ruling, municipal governments defended the state of emergency, highlighting the "absolute incompatibility between the camp conditions and the protection of human rights.

On January 6, four Romani children died in their sleep after a fire broke out in an illegal encampment on the outskirts of Rome. Mayor Gianni Alemanno reiterated his intention to implement the 2009 Nomad Plan, which calls for closing down illegal camps and transferring the Roma to legal settlements.

Government officials at the national and local levels, including those from the Ministry of Interior and UNAR, met periodically with Roma and their representatives. On June 17, groups of Roma living in Milan established a council to facilitate dialogue with the local government. By July the Observatory for the Security against Discrimination had received 130 reports regarding 56 crimes against Roma; police arrested 11 persons and opened investigations on another 33.

In 2010 UNAR received approximately 1,000 calls on its national hotline and 10,000 requests through its Web site. UNAR received information on 500 cases of discrimination, 28 percent of which were related to labor conditions, 20 percent to housing, and 10 percent to discrimination in the provision of public services. UNAR provided legal assistance and helped mediate disputes.

 

Vernellia R. Randall
Founder and Editor
Professor Emerita of Law
The University of Dayton School of Law

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