Forced evictions: A campaign of harassment against Roma in Italy

By Rosi Mangiacavallo

On the 20 September 2017, I was walking with Marco, a colleague from Associazione 21 Luglio, beneath a burning sun through the streets of Scampia, a suburb of Naples. It was the third time in three months that we were visiting to the Cupa Perillo camp. What would be the mood of the people we met them? We asked ourselves this question because since11 July about 630 Roma, who had been living in Cupa Perillo camp for between 20 and 30 years, were now under threat of eviction because of a preventive seizure issued by the court of Naples.

Moreover, on 27 August a suspicious fire broke out in the camp. Fortunately no one was injured but it spread great fear. Some families, about 50 people, lost their homes. Since then they have been housed in the neighbourhood auditorium. In the days following the fire, tensions heightened as people drove by the camp in cars and on motorcycles shouting "We'll burn you all!"

The municipality of Naples has offered a makeshift city in an abandoned barracks as alternative housing solution to the camp. This is a temporary solution until 31 December. And it is not clear if all, or just half of the 630 or so Roma, will be accommodated in the makeshift city. Some Roma, supported by NGOs, have appealed to the Italian courts and are now addressing the European Court of Human Rights.

For several years I have worked as the ERRC human rights monitor for Italy and according to the evidence of my field work, the evictions of Roma carried out by Italian authorities do not meet the standards established by national and international law. In addition, the forced evictions that we monitor in Italy usually violate the Race Equality Directive 2000/43/EC because they often make Romani families homeless, and for this reason amount to harassment, which is also prohibited as a form of discrimination under the Directive. Similar to this recent case in Naples, Romani families are forcibly evicted from their homes and often left on the street, or housed in inappropriate alternative solutions, such as segregated shelters.

And Cupa Perillo is far from the exception in Italy! What I say is confirmed by the recent briefing “Il ritorno delle ruspe”, published recently by Associazione 21 Luglio. It confirms that in the municipality of Rome, between 1 November 2016 and 30 June 2017, forced evictions are increasing and in the case of Romani communities by 133%. In effect, this means that Romani persons, including women, children, old and sick people, are evicted on average 3.5 times per month.

The ERRC, like many others human rights NGOs, has frequently denounced the fact that Italian authorities do not respect the procedural protections that must be applied in case of eviction. What exactly does this mean? Briefly, it means that the authorities do not consult people in advance about the eviction (so called genuine consultation); fail to issue written communication; and refuse to take in consideration the weather conditions.

As the Associazione 21 Luglio puts it, forced evictions are costly and do not solve the ‘question’. Roma are forced to leave the camps and move somewhere else, often in hidden places, worsening their living conditions and living with the prospect of being evicted yet again in a short time. Bearing in mind the climate of antigypsyism in Italy and the widespread practice of evicting Romani settlements, what we witness is a campaign of sustained harassment being waged against the Roma in Italy.

What is necessary in Naples, like anywhere else, is that Italy, first of all, recognizes that people live in camps, formal or informal, because they have been marginalized by the authorities. Ghettos must be overcome by long-term plans. It is necessary to overcome the legacy of the policies associated with the so-called “Nomad emergency” in line with the commitments made, in the National Strategy approved in 2012, which clearly states that social policies must be implemented which aim to make Roma families autonomous and thus able to leave the camps, with first step being access to school and jobs. Instead, as my work unfortunately shows, the authorities persist with forced evictions, which achieve nothing except to worsen the condition of affected persons and repeatedly violate their fundamental rights.

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