Appeal for Via dei Gordani

27 February 2001

The European Roma Rights Center (ERRC) is herewith distributing a petition organised by the Citizens Coordinating Committee for the Implementation of the Roma Village of Via dei Gordiani. The ERRC endorses the efforts of activists to raise awareness of the human rights issues facing Roma in Italy, specifically in the field of housing. In its November 2000 report Campland: Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy, the ERRC called on the Italian government, inter alia, to implement measures to abolish segregation in the field of housing in Italy, including but not limited to abolition of the system of segregated dwelling areas known as "camps for nomads".

The full text of the ERRC report is available on the Internet at: ERRC: International Advocacy . The text of petition by Citizens Coordinating Committee for the Implementation of the Roma Village of Via dei Gordiani follows:

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" (Article one of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the Italian government.

In Via dei Gordiani, a stone's throw from the center of Rome, the principle of the above declaration seems to be forgotten. Two hundred people, including a hundred children, have lived for more than twenty years in conditions of poverty and neglect reminiscent of the Favellas of Brazil. Their flammable, makeshift huts lean one on top of the other, in a labyrinth of dirt and mud.

Unfortunately this is nothing new, but this year the story could have been different. The people of via dei Gordiani should have spent the winter in houses, with walls to protect them from the wind, cold and the risk of fire. The project to build a new village in Via dei Gordiani was initiated five years ago by the regional government of Lazio, the city council of Italy's capital, Rome and IACP, the independent institute for public housing. The plans for a new housing development also included improvements to the local streets, renovating public housing in the area, and an expansive neighborhood park. It was a project that would have benefited the whole population, transforming a declining area into a thriving community.

Instead, the funds allocated for the project have been shut up in the bank for years, the plans have languished in heavy municipal buearocracy and never found the city-council support that was promised. How is this possible?

The reason is simple and can be found in one small detail. These two hundred people are Roma (Gypsies) and it appears that in Italy, Roma are not citizens like other people. They can be parked in "camps" but do not have the right to a house a right reserved for "real" Italians.

Within a few months the people of Via dei Gordiani have been deceived twice. Last spring, following protests from both Roma and non-Romani at the delay in starting the project, the leaders of the city council turned up at Via dei Gordiani with a proposal for a "compromise". This involved delaying the construction of the village indefinitely. It was judged to be "counterproductive" during the regional election campaign, then under way, in which the right were campaigning on a racist and anti-immigration platform. In return it was proposed that the huts would be replaced immediately with "containers" (pre-fabricated huts) and that the provision of water, light and essential sanitation would be guaranteed. In other words the bare minimum necessary for the survival of 100 children and their families.

This was in April. It is now the middle of winter and the scene at Via dei Gordiani has not changed: the huts, the rats, the dirt, the disease are still there. But on top of this, there is enormous disillusion and even greater desperation because, although the project to build the village has been put on one side, the containers have never seen the light of day.

The signatories to this appeal are convinced that we can measure the level of civilization of a society by the way it treats people like those of Via dei Gordiani. We believe that it is time we realise that the liberty and happiness of others are the only real guarantee of our own liberty and happiness. When we start dividing citizens into "insiders" and "outsiders", recognizing the rights of the first group but not of the other; when we decide to abandon to their own destiny the most vulnerable and the least protected: when in short the left becomes ashamed of its own ideas and renounces its own principles in the face of the racist arguments (however much disguised) of the right, then we have the conditions for the rise of more Haiders.

The signatories of this appeal demand that the administration of the city of Rome undertake immediately the installation of the containers which are indispensable for the physical survival of the Roma community of Via dei Gordiani. At the same time we demand that the decision to build the village be ratified urgently. The village represents an experiment in coexistence in which the presence of the Roma people, instead of being seen in negative terms, would become the occasion for a visible improvement in the quality of life of a whole area. The implementation of this project would be a model for the whole of Europe. It would constitute a precedent of great importance, concrete evidence of a change in policy towards the Roma people. It would be a first step towards respecting the rights of a community which is an integral part of the city and has paid a very high price through the inhuman conditions in which it is forced to live. In Rome, in Via dei Gordiani, what is at stake is not the dignity of the Roma, but of all.

Moni Ovadia, José Saramago (premio Nobel per la letteratura), Eduardo Galeano, Goran Bregovic, Jacques Derrida, Tony Gatlif, Adolfo Perez Esquivel (premio Nobel per la pace), Dario Fo (premio Nobel per la letteratura), Franca Rame, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Rossana Rossanda, Marco Revelli, Italo Moretti, Laura Betti, Carla Gravina, Rita Borsellino, Carlos Montemayor, Predrag Matvejevic, Miklos Hubay, Paolo Rossi, Altan, Vauro, Sandro Portelli, Enrico Ghezzi, Daniele Cipri', Franco Maresco, Silvano Agosti, Ersilia Salvato, Raniero La Valle, Giovanni Franzoni, Stanislaw Staniewicz (vicepresidente International Romani Union), Mario Boccia, Tano D'Amico, Danilo De Marco, Alberto Grifi, Zak Santiago Alam, Ian F. Hancock, Leonardo Piasere, Nicholas Csergo, Thomas Acton, Joshua Horowitz, Zuf de Zur, Mauro Masi, Nichi Vendola, Luisa Morgantini, Giovanni Russo Spena, Francesca Izzo, Paolo Cento, Luigi Manconi, Walter De Cesaris, Giorgio Gardiol, Gianfranco Schiavone, Salvatore Bonadonna, Patrizia Sentinelli, Pio Baldelli Estela Carlotto, Lita Boitano, Santina Mastinu, Julio Morresi, Luis Mazzocchi, Vanina Marras, Irma Escrivo, Graciela Wagner (familiari di desaparecidos italiani in Argentina) Ilsa Albani (avvocato DD.HH.)

Fabio Alberti, Illia Rosenthal, Raul Mordenti, Nicky Fasquelle, Stefano Anastasia, Julia Lovell, Bart Wordsworth, Rosemary Sales, Lawrence S. Mayer, Nicoletta Bosco, Kate Carlisle, Piero Colacicchi, Sergio Bontempelli, Giuliano Campioni, Isa Ciani, Gigi Perrone, Elena Ulivieri, Mauro Cristaldi, Romana Sansa, Silvana Grippi, Dimitris Argiropoulos, Silvia Golino, Claudia Fregoli, Elio Rindone, Anna Gigli, Jason Nardi, Grazia Naletto, Giorgio Quaranta, Mirella Sartori, Efrem Fava, Joanne Thorpe, Marco Morandi, Alessandro Di Meo, Marco Nieli, Sandra Cangemi, Luciana Marinangeli, Maria Mantello, Maria Jatosti, Cristina Annino, Giovanni Di Castro, Mariangela Prestipino, Andrea Lena Corritore I.C.S. - Consorzio Italiano di Solidarieta', Coordinamento degli immigrati di Brescia, Lega Internazionale per i Diritti e la Liberazione dei Popoli, Unione Inquilini - Roma, Federazione Giovanile Evangelica - Roma, Africa Insieme - Toscana, Associazione Amengia, Comitato per la Difesa dei Diritti degli Immigrati - Lecce, Carta, Liberazione, Un ponte perŠ, Associazione popoli minacciati / Ges. für bedrohte Völker, Opera Nomadi -Campania, Circolo di cultura omosessuale Mario Mieli, Forum delle donne di Rifondazione Comunista.

This appeal is promoted by Citizens Coordinating Committee for the Implementation of the Roma Village of Via dei Gordiani. To register your support, please email the following address: pignoni@mat.uniroma1.it or telephone one of the following numbers: (from outside Italy): +390 6 77202758; +39 380 5232344; +39 333 4636334

The European Roma Rights Center is an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European Roma Rights Center, visit the ERRC on the web at http://errc.org.

European Roma Rights Center
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary
Telephone: (36 1) 4132200
Fax: (36 1) 4132201

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