Human Rights Groups Urge European Commission to Commence Infringement Proceedings against Italy

05 May 2009

Brussels, Budapest, Florence, New York: Under the guise of conducting a census for humanitarian reasons, Italy is consistently violating the fundamental rights of Roma and Sinti enshrined in EU law, according to letters submitted to the European Commission by rights groups yesterday. In the letters, directed to European Commissioners Spidla and Barrot, the European Roma Rights Centre, osservAzione and the Open Society Institute requested that the Commission launch infringement proceedings addressing Italy's non-compliance with the EU Race Equality Directive and the EU Data Protection Directive.

Eleven months after the Italian government enacted its "Declaration of the state of emergency with regard to settlements of nomad communities in the territories of Campania, Lazio and Lombardia regions" and supporting regulations, the Government has focused its "emergency response" on the coercive documentation of Roma and Sinti in numerous camps, taking their photographs and their fingerprints, engaging in house searches without a court order, and in some cases using the information gathered to deport those who cannot demonstrate a right to live in Italy.

The Italian Government has consistently held that no database has been created and that the census was carried out in accordance with national and international laws and regulations concerning the protection of privacy. The submitting organisations supported their requests with a jointly prepared memorandum outlining in detail the process of census implementation and its violation of protection regulations set out in EU law including threats, intimidation and other forms of coercion, significant shortcomings concerning adequate information provision and informed consent, and widespread photographing of Roma and Sinti.

Commenting on the real intention of the census, the submitting organisations noted increased law enforcement and immigration controls, as well as the growing threat of forced eviction for many Roma and Sinti.

The full text of the memorandum, as well as the letters to Commissioner Spidla and Commissioner Barrot are available at:

For further information, please contact:

Sinan Gokcen, ERRC, sinan.gokcen@errc.org, +36.1.413.2200
Luis Montero, OSI, Luis.Montero@osf-eu.org, +44 7798737516
Piero Colacicchi, osservAzione, pierocolacicchi@tele2.it, +393.408.142.949

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