Continued Expulsions and Dismantling of Romani Camps in Italy

10 July 2002

Instead of facilitating improved access to adequate housing among Roma in Italy, Italian authorities are continuing to capitalise on, and in many cases exacerbate, anti-Romani sentiment in Italy by conducting abusive raids on Romani settlements, and in extreme cases, expelling Roma from Italy:

Abusive police raids

According to Roberto Pignoni of the Rome-based, non-governmental association Rome Migrant’s Social Forum, more than thirty military police (carabinieri) entered camp Gordiani on the southern periphery of Rome on January 25, 2002, at approximately 8:00 AM, and began searching the premises. According to Mr Pignoni, the police did not provide search warrants upon entering the camp and claimed to be checking documents. Allegedly, the police stated that camp residents found with documents “not in order” would be immediately taken to the immigration office at Via Genoa and given orders to leave Italy. However, the immediate mobilisation of the Rome Migrant’s Social Forum and Coordinamento contro le guerre, a university-based group that supports the community of via dei Gordiani, prevented the military police from taking anybody out of the camp.

Also according to the Rome Migrant’s Social Forum, in a similar incident three days earlier, in the morning of January 22, 2002, approximately forty state police officers, a police van and dogs entered camp Gordiani as helicopters hovered overhead, in what was reportedly a police operation against drugs. The Rome Migrant’s Social Forum and Coordinamento contro le guerre reports that a Romani man with outstanding criminal charges was taken to police headquarters. However, Mr Pignoni is of the opinion that the operation was merely an excuse to search the Romani settlement: Approximately eight Romani men without resident permits were taken to police headquarters for identity checks and expulsion; police also checked a number of cars and confiscated several on the grounds that they lacked proof of insurance. Later in the afternoon, seven of the eight men detained were released, while one Romani man was held in custody for two days, then released from custody with orders to leave Italy. Some of the seven men released on the same afternoon now reported having also been served expulsion notices.

Abusive expulsions

According to the October 27, 2001, edition of the Italian national daily newspaper Il Nuovo, on October 6, 2001, approximately forty Roma in Milan publicly protested against the expulsion of twenty Roma during the first week of October. All of the Roma, expelled reportedly lacked resident permits, but were employed as painters or masons in Milan. Il Nuovo also reported that police violence had allegedly taken place during expulsions. One Romani man was quoted as stating, “plainclothes policemen entered our trailers, forced open the door and took us by force, including children. They wanted to expel us like animals; one of us was punched, too.”

The expulsions were apparently part of the municipal programme launched in October 2000, to dismantle the Barzaghi settlement on the northwestern periphery of Milan. According to Il Nuovo of October 31, 2001, this Romani settlement held more than one thousand Roma from Kosovo, Bosnia, Romania and Macedonia, yet it offered no sanitary facilities, no electricity and no water. In October 2000, the mayor of Milan, Mr Gabriele Albertini, announced that the camp would be dismantled and 250 selected Roma would be separated according to their “country of origin,” and moved to authorised camps on Novara and Triboniano streets, in the western and north-western periphery of Milan, according to the October 31, 2000 edition of Il Nuovo. To determine eligibility for entering the camps, the city held a census in the Barzaghi settlement, beginning on August 6, 2001, as reported on August 2, 2001 in Il Nuovo, followed by document checks and verifications in September. The Municipal Office for Nomadic Affairs in Milan reported to the ERRC during a telephone interview on January 25, 2002, that, according to the census, there were five hundred and eighty Roma living in the camp, three hundred of whom were allowed to enter into the new camps next to Barzaghi. According to Il Nuovo, 180 Roma were ordered to leave Italy before October 15, 2001, as a result of the city’s count. S.O.S. confirmed that, as of March 1, 2002, five Roma previously living in the camp had been expelled to Romania.

On December 21, 2001, Mr Fabio Zerbini, an attorney working with 3 Febbraio and S.O.S. Anti-expulsion Switchboard, reported to the ERRC that on November 6, 2001, municipal police began dismantling Barzaghi at dawn. Romani families possessing resident permits were moved to Triboniano. Approximately one hundred and thirty inhabitants had their homes destroyed with their belongings inside, resulting in loss of property. Many inhabitants were away from the site and returned to find the area bulldozed. Fifty of the Roma, left homeless after the destruction of their homes, occupied a nearby church for one evening. After being forced to leave the church, they moved to a local occupied house named Torchiera. As of March 1, 2002, approximately eighty Roma were occupying an abandoned building owned by ENEL, the state-owned energy company, on Sapri Street in the northwestern periphery of Milan.
Failure to provide adequate housing

According to the national daily newspaper la Repubblica of March 15, 2002, the Romani camp Via Gordiani on the southeastern periphery of Rome burnt to the ground at around 6:00 PM on the evening of March 14, 2002. There were no reported injuries from the fire; however, fifty shacks made of wood and cardboard were destroyed, along with all of the possessions that camp inhabitants could not carry with them as they fled the fire. Most of the Roma living at the camp reside in Italy illegally, meaning that they kept all of their savings in their homes, and this is now lost. According to ERRC field investigation, in the days after the fire, the displaced Roma were been taken in by the local parish, Santa Maria della Misericordia, and had not received any sort of assistance from the Italian government as of March 20, 2002. Approximately 200 Roma have lived at the unauthorised camp for the last twenty years. The camp lacked any type of basic infrastructure, including electricity, a potable water supply or a sewage system. A planned housing unit, designed for Romani camp inhabitants, was approved six years ago and suspended by the Rome municipality in December 2000. This plan was replaced by a proposal for temporary housing, in the form of containers, on the site where the unauthorised Via Gordiani camp stood. On January 31, 2001, the Region of Lazio dissolved the funds for the project and declared that the land that Via Gordiani is situated on will be utilised to build homes for the elderly, handicapped and young couples (for background information, see Proposed housing for Roma in Italy blocked ). La Re-pubblica reported that Mayor of Rome Mr Walter Veltroni has promised that the camp will be rebuilt within two months. The situation of Roma living in camps in Italy is the focus of the ERRC Country Report: Campland: Racial Segregation of Roma in Italy, which is available on the Internet at: http://www.errc.org/Countryrep_index.php

(Coordinamento Cittadini, Corriere della Sera, ERRC, Il Nuovo, la Repubblica, S.O.S. Anti-expulsion Switchboard)

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